Unhappy over provisions of the education bill passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday to ensure free and compulsory education to children aged 6-14 years, a leading educationist on Wednesday protested the "highly flawed bill" and said he will challenge it in the Supreme Court.
Rejecting Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal's claim that it was a "historic legislation", eminent educationist Anil Sadgopal said: "It will be the most unfortunate day when the bill eventually becomes a legislation."
According to him, many educationists and civil rights groups are organising a protest Friday against the bill at the Jantar Mantar against the "highly flawed and anti-child legislation".
Sadgopal, who was a member of the 2005 Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) headed by Kapil Sibal to work on the right to education legislation, said: "The bill will help the private sector schools and in no way provide for equal educational opportunities to all."
"Will the private schools stop charging fees from children aged six to 14 years after this? The bill is silent," Sadgopal told IANS by phone from Bhopal.
"It provides for 25 per cent reservation to children from backward and economically weak sections. It doesn't spell out if they would sit in the same classroom. Will the private schools sit such children with the fee-paying ones?"
"It is yet to become a law and awaiting the presidential assent. We plan to file a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court challenging the bill, and will call on President Pratibha Patil to return it," he said.
Murmurs of protest had already started after the bill was first passed in the Rajya Sabha July 20 - with demonstrations by groups of academicians in Hyderabad the next day, a rally by over 700 women in Kolhapur in Maharashtra July 23, and in Bhopal five days later.
When told that there was at least some legislation that finally guarantees children the right to education, Sadgopal said: "There is already such a guarantee in the constitution of India, you don't need another law for the purpose."
He said there was "not a word on pre-primary education" while a neighbourhood school had not been defined and the legislation left it open to the states to decide on it.
Sadgopal, rights activist Medha Patkar and others also called on Speaker Meira Kumar July 23 under the banner of All India Forum for Right to Education.
"We presented to her that the bill had been introduced and passed (then in the Rajya Sabha) without a single public hearing for a legislation with such far-reaching consequences," he said.