Money Making Machines – India Legal

By Vikram Kilpady

When the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (now called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) was introduced in 2005 by the United Progressive Alliance government, it drew heavy criticism. from the pro-market liberal fraternity. Their bogeyman was why the state should spend on its already loss-making kitty for 100 days of labor by backcountry laborers and underwrite new overhead, which could hurt any planning. Private contractors could get the same laborers to do the job for a pittance.

The other criticism leveled at MGNREGA was that it would make people lazy and indolent knowing that they would be paid for 100 days of work per year. Despite the irregularities or whatever plagued the regime under the UPA and for which it was viciously attacked by the National Democratic Alliance ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the MGNREGA continues to bring roti and rice on the tables of the very poor. So much so that his allowance has increased under the two Modi governments.

Other salutary injections from the UPA were the Right to Information Act (RTI, now significantly weakened), the Right to Education Act (RTE) and the Right to Education Act. feed. RTI was preceded by an emotional on-the-ground campaign led by Aruna Roy and others. Arvind Kejriwal was also one of many foot soldiers in the RTI campaign and became a leader who would capitalize on the India Against Corruption movement and make it political with the Aam Aadmi party.

The Law on the Right to Education or Law on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education came into force on 1 April 2010. Initially, the RTE states: “The law makes education a fundamental right of any child between the ages of 6 and 6. 14 and specifies minimum standards in elementary schools. It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of places for children (to be reimbursed by the State under the public-private partnership plan). Children are admitted to private schools based on economic status or caste-based reservations.

All private schools, as expected, have recoiled from the loss of revenue they would suffer if they reserved 25% of places for pupils in the economically weaker section (EWS). Initially they said that bringing children of the poor into the school would impact class discipline and this was followed by a myriad of other excuses. The government had to monitor whether the schools met their share each year when it came to admissions.

Some 12 years later, not all schools have played ball. Some 18,000 pupils who were eligible for admission to Delhi schools under the SAP have not been housed in the past two years. The Chairman of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Priyank Kanoongo, has reported this to the Chief Secretary in Delhi and demanded a response on the action taken by the government.

The 2011 Delhi Rules on Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education state that schools which have purchased land at subsidized rates must provide free primary education and do so until the end of secondary education/ upper secondary.

Delhi is a relatively new city. This may recall the Indraprastha of Mahabharat, but the city of New Delhi and its post-independence expansion from the Lutyens area to the vast National Capital Region is somewhat recent. Schools and hospitals have been allocated land at derisory prices to meet, at state expense, the health and education needs of future populations.

Many of these schools and hospitals would become stand-alone brands as Delhi overtook Mumbai as a migrant magnet, especially after 1991. New settlements sprang up, as did more schools and hospitals. Each turn of the wheel of time and development has seen more and more people migrate to the city, attracted by the BPO-KPO boom of the 2000s and the metro era. Infrastructure works, tree cutting, last mile supply lines for the metro hub have all welcomed more EWS labor to the capital, who have come with the hope of employment and of a sustainable life. As difficult as it was, it would be better than their dusty villages in the boondocks where life was measured without hope or income.

So where do the children of the poor go to study while their parents earn a living to make the city more modern and chic? Let’s deal with the awkward expression of EWS first, because we’re ashamed to say poor or don’t mean poor because it will remind us of our relative wealth compared to the truly have-nots.

But could schools that offer construction funds, development funds and many other funds make room for the poor 25% when they would rather welcome the children of the rich? Some did it, some played tokenism, and some scared the kids.

Recently, Barakhamba Road branch of Modern School asked 14 EWS students from Class 11 to pay Rs 67,875 per head as fees for the first term of the school year. When some parents attempted to speak to the principal, they were asked to settle outstanding fees to continue their wards’ higher education in class 11 in 2022-2023 or leave the school.

One of the parents reportedly said he was a tailor and the demand was way beyond his means. The parents have now sent a legal notice through lawyer Ashok Agarwal to the principal. The legal notice states: “Students have been admitted under the EWS/DG (DG (disadvantaged group) category and have appeared for the CBSE X Class Board Examination in 2021-2022 and are awaiting their result. All students have been admitted to the kindergarten class and since then they have been studying for free in the EWS / DG category.

“Since your school is located on government land, my said clients are entitled to continue their education up to Class XII as per the Delhi Government notification dated 25.01.2007. It is also argued that the rules made by the Delhi government under the RTE Act 2009 provide that all schools located on land allocated by the government must provide free tuition to all EWS students until class XII. Your school being located on land allocated by the government is required to provide free education to EWS/DG pupils up to class XII. As such, your school’s action in not providing free education up to Class XII is unlawful, arbitrary, unjust, ethical, discriminatory, unconstitutional and amounts to contempt of the Delhi High Court,” states the opinion.

He adds that the High Court in similar cases ordered schools on public land to provide free education to EWS/DG pupils up to class XII. The notice then goes on to cite Rule 11 of the Delhi Rules on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education, 2011, which says: “Part 3. The schools mentioned in the second proviso of subsection (2 ) of Section 12 shall continue to fulfill their obligation to provide free education beyond elementary education, as the case may be, and shall not be entitled to any reimbursement to the extent of their obligation.

If you thought that only schools were money-making machines, think again. Private hospitals built on government-granted land fared no better. The rules state that 10% of people admitted to private hospitals should be treated free of charge and 25% of outpatients should be poor and treated free of charge. The Delhi government found three hospitals in South Delhi and two in East Delhi to be among the violators of this rule.

Although the Delhi government imposed a fine of around Rs 600 crore in 2016 on the five hospitals, the hospital authorities have not budged. They claimed they were providing free treatment as required by law and would challenge it in court if it happened. The Delhi government cited a 2007 Delhi High Court ruling that grants it the right to impose penalties on hospitals making a profit by denying beds to the poor.

RTE has made the right to education a fundamental right. And all fundamental rights do not necessarily have to be the responsibility of the state alone. Private schools are showing their greed by trying to circumvent a historic law.

When Lord Krishna does not differentiate between rich and poor as illustrated in the tale of Sudama in the Bhagavata Purana, why should the tony schools and lavish hospitals of Delhi get away with it?

If only the Mahatma of MGNREGA was here to hear about this crude commercialization and greed, maybe he should have said “Hey Ram” again!

—The author is the publisher, IndiaLegalLive.com and APNLive.com

James G. Williams