Even as the UT education department continues to receive complaints regarding hefty fee hike in private schools, two years on, the administration has failed to heed directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court to come up with a permanent mechanism to monitor the trend.
In the same case, the HC had constituted a panel too, under the chairmanship of justice RS Mongia (retd) to look into the issue on a petition by a Ludhiana-based NGO, but that has failed to submit its report in the past three years. After HT had highlighted the likely fee hike of 10-15% in January this year, Mongia had claimed that the report would be submitted to the HC by February. In the latest, Mongia said, “I have been extremely unwell and have been busy with my checkups.” Asked pointedly if the report was likely anytime soon, he said he had been “advised by the doctors not to talk”.
So far, according to sources in the office of the committee, data of 50 out of 73 private unaided schools has been analysed, while the rest have not yet provided balance sheets.
The committee takes money from schools as per its mandate, and thus has so far collected about Rs 24 lakh, going by its declared Rs 40,000 per inspection for members and Rs 8,000 for clerical and other expenses. Strawberry Fields School principal Atul Khanna said, “We paid Rs 20,000 to justice Mongia and Rs 10,000 each to the other committee members after the inspection.” But the committee is certainly not everything.
It has prepared its data on the basis of balance sheets of 2012-13 and 2013-14 to eventually conclude which school was charging excess fee. After that, it is for the administration to decide.
The administration was expressly tasked by the HC too. While finally disposing of the petition in 2014, the court gave the UT directions to establish a mechanism and take a decision in the matter in six months.
In its compliance report, the UT had stated that it would follow the Punjab government on this. Director, public instructions (DPI), schools, Rubinderjit Singh Brar, on Tuesday said, “Since Punjab has not come up with a mechanism, we will not wait any longer and come up with our own mechanism.”
However, when asked why that was not done as per HC directions, UT education secretary Sarvjit Singh went back on it and said, “Till the time the HC-appointed committee doesn’t submit its report, the UT education department cannot form any mechanism. We have no power to regulate the fee.”
Chandigarh-based RTI activist RK Garg remarked, “The UT adviser should step in.”
The HC judgment had said that the committee’s work scope was “restricted to the academic year 2012-13”; and for 2013-14, “though the schools shall have the right to fix their fees structure, they will have to justify the same by producing necessary material before the committee”. That remains to be followed too.