Education experts are wondering whether the government will actually implement the tough new provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) legislation.
State education minister Balashaeb Thorat said his department was in the process of modifying the law to prevent interviews of students for admission to primary schools, or for charging capitation fee to admit students.
Currently, schools openly take donations and rarely face any action, if at all. “That’s not entirely true. We do take action against schools when we get complaints from parents. They have to approach any education authority and we ensure they get justice if the complaint is found to be genuine,” said state Education Secretary Sanjay Kumar.
But many complaints are not filed simply because the parents do not want to reveal their identity, and because of the cumbersome court procedure.
“But we can’t do anything if parents do not reveal their identities since we have to lodge a court case against the schools. We also have a supervisory mechanism in place that checks on such irregularities at the school level,” Kumar said.
Starting April 1, 2010, under the Right to Education (RTE) legislation, which applies to primary and secondary education (Class 1 to 8), any school found interviewing students and parents for admissions will face a penalty of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000.
Also, a school asking for donations will have to pay, as penalty, 10 times the amount asked as donation.
This is as opposed to the Rs 5,000 penalty currently specified by Maharashtra’s Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act, 1987.
Another issue, according to experts, is that the new provisions apply only from Classes 1 to 8, and not to pre-primary schools, in which the problem is more rampant.
Officials, however, point out that the existing capitation Act covers any institution, including kindergarten, pre-primary, balwadi or nursery school, college or any educational institution, that is not covered by the RTE Act. For donations, it specifies imprisonment that can extend up to two years.