The Maharashtra government has implored schools to observe a token day in February to spread the importance of the Marathi language but education activists said that the state is turning a blind eye to the 250 Marathi-medium schools in the state that are on the verge of shutting down because of recent policies.
School owners said that they will move the Bombay high court (HC) against the state’s school education department, which has refused to grant approvals to private Marathi-medium schools, which had sent proposals under the master plan finalised by the Congress government in 2012.
The master plan was prepared in 2008 by mapping areas in need of new schools in rural areas. This was done amidst concerns on the acute shortage of Marathi-medium schools in areas that border other states, due to which students had to take admission in schools instructing in the neighbouring state’s language. The cabinet had taken a decision to grant permits to Marathi-medium schools in such regions.
Owners said that the BJP-led government had put the master plan on hold. “When we approach the officials to follow up on the status of these schools, we are told that the master plan has been scrapped and that the government is working on a new plan,” said Deepak Pawar, convenor, Marathi Abhyas Kendra, which works towards the development of the language.
Since the Right to Education Act, 2009 stipulates that schools cannot run without approvals, the department is pushing them to shut down. Bowing to the pressure, few have already started pulling down shutters; their students have been forced to transfer to other language schools. “With no aid or approval from the government, the schools don’t have the means to continue running,” said Pawar. “Teachers and principals are spending money from their own pockets to keep some of them afloat.”
In contrast, English-medium schools are getting speedy approvals, the owners alleged. “There are several English schools flouting the RTE norms but the department is not cracking down on them,” said Girish Samant, a school owner.
Before moving court, the owners will appeal to the government for the last time this month. “We have a meeting with Vinod Tawde, the education minister, and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Pune in the coming month,” said Rajesh Pradhan, another school owner. If their pleas fall on deaf ears, the schools will launch a state-wide agitation and file a public interest litigation in the court, he added.
Despite repeated calls and texts, Tawde and principal secretary Nanda Kumar refused to comment, citing the code-of-conduct, which is effective for the upcoming elections. But a senior education official said, “We are working on different parameters to set up Marathi schools, they will be released once ready.”