At least 24 to 25 corruption cases against private school staffers are pending with the anti-corruption bureau over the last few years, said the principal secretary of the school education department. The reluctance by the school managements to take action against them spurred the Maharashtra government to empower the department to sack private school employees caught taking bribes.
School managements are fuming because the department didn’t consult them before taking the important decision. The managements will appeal to chief minister Devandra Fadnavis against the ‘impingement of their rights’ as private institutions.
Hindustan Times on Tuesday reported that the government revised the Prevention of Anti-Corruption Rules, 1988, to delegate powers to the director education to take action against private school staff convicted of corruption.
Earlier, under the section 19 of the rules, the department could take action only against employees of government-run and government-aided schools. Managements complained that since private schools do not receive financial aid from the government, they are not entitled to take action against their staff. “It is okay for the government to take action against aided schools as they receive grants from the government but it has no right to interfere in unaided schools,” said Prashant Redij, member of the Mumbai Principals Association and Maharashtra Unaided Schools Action Committee.
Redij said often management doesn’t take harsh action taking the culprit’s economic condition into consideration. “Many unaided schools don’t pay teachers on time. This makes them act out in desperation,” said Redij, adding that the organisation’s 145 agitations (since 2005) demand of timely payment of teachers’ salaries have fallen on the deaf ears.
Fear of legal action also prevents management from sacking employees. “Anyone who is fired knocks on the tribunal doors and the school gets dragged into a court case that can go on for years,” said Freny Mehta, principal, Alexandra Girls’ English Institute, Fort.
But Nand Kumar, principal secretary of the department said private schools are accountable to the public as they get grants and aid from the government in various forms. “It is the public money,” said Kumar. “Even self-financed institutes are accountable as even though they don’t get aid right now, they will in the future.”
Kumar added that a strong decision was needed as school managements don’t take action against their staff. “There are 24-25 pending cases with the anti-corruption bureau. The cases are pending because management has not sacked the guilty parties,” said Kumar. “So we decided to take the power in our own hands.”