An alleged nexus between private schools, mainly those affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education, and booksellers and publishers is leading to exploitation of thousands of students in the district.
Besides books, some schools have also started selling uniforms at their own rates and that, too, without issuing any bills or receipts, completely closing the doors to the open competitive market.
Vipan Chander Kaushal, an RTI activist in the district, has filed a complaint with the deputy commissioner and district education officer (secondary), requesting action in this regard.
"According to a circular issued by the CBSE to affiliated schools on February 2, 2011, school premises cannot be used for commercial purposes as being done by many schools across the district," Kaushal claimed.
He added that the sale of books and uniforms, directly or indirectly on the school premises, amounts to exploitation of those parents who manage to send their children to private schools despite financial constraints.
"Some school owners sell books and uniforms themselves while some allow particular book sellers to do so on their premises after allegedly negotiating on commission. It has led to monopoly in the business of sale of books and uniforms, further leading to the exploitation of students and parents," Kaushal alleged.
As per Kultar Singh, a former sarpanch of Sandhwan village in Faridkot, "The schools are supposed to charge fee as per the laid down norms but their entry into the realm of sale of books, note books and even uniforms is a dangerous and exploitative move. Many schools change uniforms so that students have to buy new ones every season. As the practice is going on unchecked, more and more schools are allegedly entering this commercial field."
Small book store owners, too, have expressed their concern over the sale of books and uniforms by schools. "While some schools sell books themselves or allow someone to sell books on their premises, some others keep the list of selected books under wraps. These books are only available at a particular book seller who allegedly pay commission to school," said Lucky, owner of a book store in Kotkapura.
This practice is hurting the business interests of small shopkeepers besides leading to the exploitation of students, he added.
Expressing concern over alleged commercialisation of education, Darshan Singh, a former sarpanch of Dhilwan Kalan village, said, "The private schools are minting money and government has turned a blind eye to the exploitation of students as these institutions are being run by influential people."
Education is going out of the reach of the common man and due to commercialisation on large scale only rich can afford it, he claimed.
It is learnt that parents are not provided with proper receipts for the items sold to them. District education officer (secondary), Faridkot, Sukhchain Singh Gill, said, "I have received a complaint on Friday and we are sending our teams to ascertain the facts as alleged in the complaint. The report would be forwarded to the deputy commissioner."
Faridkot deputy commissioner Mohammad Tayyab said he had asked the DEO to look into the matter. Necessary action would be taken in this regard, he added.