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Free seats for poor in all private schools: Panel

Justifying the recommendation, the committee felt that such a step needs to be viewed as a long-overdue reform.

india Updated: May 21, 2006 15:47 IST

The policy of freeship quota to poor children should be uniformly applied to all private schools and not merely to those which received lands at concessional rates, an eight-member committee appointed by the Delhi Government has said in its report to the High Court.

Justifying the recommendation, the committee felt that such a step needs to be viewed as a long-overdue systemic reform, rather than merely as a step to establish a means whereby beneficiaries of a land-grant policy can fulfil their social responsibility.

The committee was appointed by the Shiela Dikshit Government early this year on the direction of the Delhi High Court on a PIL alleging that none of the private schools enjoying public lands were implementing the freeship quota.

In the PIL, filed by advocate Ashok Agarwal on behalf of Social Jurists, it was alleged that over 300-odd private schools in the capital had availed Government lands at throwaway prices on the promise of providing 25 per cent seats free to the children of economically weaker sections but backtracked subsequently.

The panel also cautioned against any move to pool the beneficiaries of the free seats into a separate section or into afternoon shifts as sought by some of the school managements since it would create inferiority complex among the poor children.

As for the criteria to pick the beneficiaries, the panel suggested that the eligibility criteria for availing the freeship quota should be the possession of BPL cards, or an income certificate establishing that the annual family income is below Rs one lakh.

It felt that the goal of providing for a freeship quota in private schools will be seriously compromised if the quota is filled by selectively choosing candidates in terms of stereotyped notions of brightness or intelligence.

Noting that gender gap continues to be a major ailment in the country's education system, the panel observed, "it will be highly appropriate to ensure that at least half the children who are admitted to private schools under the freeship quota are girls."

Allotting 50 per cent of the freeship quota to girls will reflect the Government's commitment to the Constitution which guarantees gender equality in all spheres of life, the panel added.