From the upcoming academic year, schools will be unable to deny admissions to students allotted to them under the Right to Education (RTE) quota- reserved for economically weaker sections- even if they submit fake income certificates.
In a meeting with schools on Friday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that new rules prevent schools from cross-verifying RTE students’ documents under any circumstances. If they suspect anything amiss, they must admit the child and then report the case to the BMC, who will look into it.
“Only the BMC education department will reserve the right to cancel a student’s admission. Schools will not have the power to reject admissions on their own,” said Milind Sawant, deputy municipal commissioner, BMC, explaining the nitty-gritties of the changes to the online admission process in accordance to the government resolution dated January 10.
Hindustan Times had reported on May 30, last year that a group of Goregaon schools had unearthed a ‘fake income certificate scam’: they found that nearly 66 students submitted bogus certificates- showing that the families are earning under Rs 1 lakh annually- to avail of a seat in the quota. The schools cancelled their admissions
On probing these cases, the department found that the “uneducated” parents were misled into acquiring fake certificates by touts looking to make a quick buck, and schools refused to readmit the children even though they produced authentic documents later on, said officials. “Despite orders, schools refused to take those students back and deprived them of their rights,” said Mahesh Palkar, education officer, BMC. “So the department has taken a tough stance this time.”
Children admitted to the quota will continue studying under it till Class 8 even if their families start earning more than Rs 1 lakh after the admission, said Palkar. “Schools should not ask students to produce income certificates every year,” said Palkar. “It doesn’t matter if the child’s family earns Rs 10 or 16 lakh next year.”
Schools are alarmed over the loopholes in the new rules which might allow people to gain unfairly from the RTE provision. “Instead of strengthening the admission process, these new rules have weakened it. This increases the scope for fraud and bogus candidates,” said a principal from Vile Parle on the condition of anonymity.
Adding to their woes, the department maintained that unfilled seats in the quota will have to be kept vacant, and schools won’t be reimbursed for them. Principals said that they should be allowed to admit non-RTE students to the leftover seats. “Our schools are losing revenue because we cannot shift the vacant seats into general category,” said Amol Dhamdhere, vice-chairman of the IES Grouo of Schools. Another teacher said, “Last year, out of 50 students allotted to us, only three took admissions and among them a girl dropped out later.”