Parents and schools locked in fee disputes and child right violations will have nowhere to go. The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR), which is facing a severe staff crunch, is yet to appoint new members mandated by the Bombay High Court in May. To make matters worse, the divisional fee regulatory panel, constituted last year, is unable to hear cases as it is hunting for premises to work from.
State government constituted the fee regulatory panels in each of the divisions on May 12, as specified under the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2011. A school management is supposed to approach these panels if a fee hike crosses the 15% increase proposed by schools and approved by the executive Parents Teachers Association (PTA) panel.
Though the Mumbai division panel has received several applications from aggrieved parents and schools, the panel is yet to commence hearings. “We are hunting for a place to set up the office. Until then, we cannot hold any hearings,” said BB Chavan, deputy director of education (Mumbai region) and panel secretary.
Chavan said that they couldn’t even respond to the hundreds of applications pouring in. “Since we haven’t framed guidelines for approaching the panel yet, we can’t reply to the applications for now,” he said.
On the other hand, the MSCPCR, which had suspended work in June, resumed its hearings recently. But they are yet to appoint new members as mandated by the Bombay High Court. “The court gave us six months to make the new appointments, but we cannot stop work till then as there are many cases to be heard. We are at holding hearings for now, orders will be issued later,” said AN Tripathi, secretary of the commission.
But even the hearings are few and far between, as the secretary also holding the additional charge of the state women’s rights panel. They also depend on the availability of the chairperson, Sanjay Kumar, since the court ordered that both the office-bearers must be present to preside over the hearings.
Educationists claimed that at least 20 cases pertaining fee hike and various others related to child rights violation have piled on in the last six to seven months. “These are the two most important panels in Mumbai for parents and school managements, without them there is a lot of chaos,” said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum For Fairness in Education, a non-government organisation consisting of parents and teachers as members.