The state government’s notification, which defined weaker sections as those whose annual income is not more than ₹1 lakh, will prevent many poor children from getting school admissions under the right to education (RTE) Act, activists said.
Under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, private schools are required to admit at least 25% of children in Class I from disadvantaged and weaker sections, and provide them free education.
The Act authorises state governments to fix the income limit and define the weaker sections. The Rajasthan government issued the notification last week, saying those children will be considered as belonging to weaker sections if the annual income of their parents or guardians is not more than ₹1 lakh.
The state government had earlier set an income limit of ₹2.5 lakh to define the weaker sections. A notification, issued in March last year, limited weaker sections to only the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. The high court struck down the notification. The state then appealed in the Supreme Court, which upheld the high court order.
Some activists said the ₹1-lakh income ceiling will exclude a number of students from RTE admissions; others said the notification will change little on the ground, citing irregularities in the process of admissions under the RTE Act.
“Really underprivileged kids were excluded earlier too and they will fail to get admissions even now. Mostly the non-salaried class with false income certificates are getting admissions under the quota for weaker sections and disadvantaged,” said Hari Om Soni, an Udaipur-based activist and member of the district’s grievance redressal committee for RTE.
The government only reimburses tuition fees and there are other expenses in private schools, Soni said. “And what about the inferiority complex a kid from slums will face going to a private school? Many times admission forms under RTE were not available and the lotteries were rigged.”
Kul Bhushan Kothari, an educationist who works with NGO Pratham, called the recent notification irrational as it will be a setback to a number of children who would have otherwise benefited from the Act.
He said, “The move shows the government’s unwillingness to pay the private schools for admissions under RTE. The government spends ₹15,000-16,000 annually on every child every admitted under RTE.” Soni said private schools were struggling to get reimbursements from the government.
Kothari said, “The RTE quota has been misused by a lot of people and administrative loopholes need to be plugged first to ensure that the benefit reaches those who really deserve it.”
Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, called seats reservation for the disadvantaged as tokenism. “Private schools are motivated by profit and have no intention of extending education opportunities to the poor,” she said.