51 private schools in Chandigarh put on notice for not uploading balance sheets
In a first, 51 private schools in Chandigarh have been issued show-cause notices for not uploading their income and expenditure details on their websites.
The UT education department took this step on Tuesday, while fresh protests were witnessed outside one school against fee collection amid the Covid-19 lockdown. There are 77 private schools in the city, and at least five have seen parents’ protests in the past one week.
Rubinderjit Singh Brar, director school education, Chandigarh, said: “Schools have been given a week to clarify as to why should no action be taken against them. After that, the fee regulatory body will convene a meeting, and the schools will be penalised as per provisions of the Regulation of Fee of Unaided Educational Institutions Act, 2016.”
According to the Act, which was notified in Chandigarh in 2018, if any unaided educational institution contravenes its provisions, a fine of ₹60,000 to ₹4 lakh can be slapped on it depending on the number of violations and level of the school (primary, middle or secondary).
The standoff between the UT education department and private schools started when the administration on March 29 directed the schools to defer the collection of fees during the lockdown period. However, schools said that they won’t be able to pay salaries to their staff unless they are allowed to collect fees.
Then, invoking the Act, district education officer Alka Mehta asked schools to upload their balance sheets online.
As schools resorted to non-compliance and public pressure mounted, the UT was prompted to initiate action against schools. In fact, some schools that did display their balance sheets showed a surplus running into crores.
Nitin Goyal, president, Chandigarh Parents’ Association, said: “Schools are ‘not for profit’ organisations. They are given tax exemptions. Why should they conceal their balance sheets? Parents are also stakeholders, and should be aware of the institute’s income and expenditure.”
HS Mamik, president, Independent Schools Association, raising “privacy concerns” said, “The department has all the balance sheets in its possession. Why does it want us to upload them on a public platform ?”
Also, slamming the show-cause notices issued by the UT, Mamik said: “It is beyond my comprehension as to why the department in these difficult times has decided to move collectively against 51 schools.”
Vijaya Sidhu, principal of St Soldier International School, Sector 28, where parents held a protest against collection of fee on Tuesday, did not respond to calls despite repeated attempts.