Jaipur As the new year dawns, the Rajasthan government faces a challenge from teachers’ unions, including an RSS-affiliated one, which demand that the PPP model for government schools be withdrawn or they will vote against the BJP in the assembly elections due this year.Questions are being raised from several quarters in the state over the government abandoning its responsibility to provide education. Activists and teachers’ associations say the government is handing over its land and resources to private parties. Under the Policy for Public Private Partnership in School Education 2015 that was notified on September 12, 2017, the government has identified 300 of its schools to be given on a pilot basis to private partners through a competitive bidding process. There are around 63,000 government schools in Rajasthan with some 4 lakh teachers. They are also a large vote bank which the BJP cannot afford to ignore.The Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh (Rashtriya), a teachers’ outfit affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has planned a demonstration in Jaipur on January 5 against the decision. Prahlad Sharma, president of the organisation, said the government is running away from its responsibility to provide education. “The government says it has taken initiatives to improve education and increase enrolments. Then why the need to privatise? Private parties will run education like a business for profit not for public welfare.” Another protest is planned by teachers’ unions in Ajmer on January 17. Ram Krishan Agarwal, president of the All Rajasthan School Teachers’ Union, said various outfits have come together to stage an agitation in Ajmer, school education minister Vasudev Devnani’s constituency. “If the government does not take back the decision, we will oppose it in the assembly elections.”Agarwal questions why the government is handing over its resources and land, in many cases donated by villagers or philanthropists, to private parties. He has written to the principals of all 300 schools to get a resolution passed in their School Development and Management Committees opposing the decision to privatise schools as it was taken without their consent. Both teachers and students stand to lose, said Mahaveer Sihag, general secretary of the Shikshak Sangh Shekhawat. “Employed government teachers will lose jobs as private sector takes over and recruits new staff. And those teachers who are currently undergoing training won’t get jobs at all or will be hired by private entities on low salaries.” Private players, he said, are bound to charge high fees, which will deprive poor students of education. “The government talks of providing education and employment, but its policies are just the reverse.” Devnani insisted that no good government schools are being given on PPP mode and students will continue to get all facilities. “We are trying this on a pilot basis in 300 schools. The private partner will be given management, not ownership of the schools, for 10 years to improve quality of education,” he said. According to the PPP policy, 75% schools in rural areas and 25% in urban areas will be identified on the basis of poor performance and given to private players. Schools at district and divisional headquarters and Adarsh schools will not be given. The private party will be free to appoint teaching and non-teaching staff. Government teachers will be adjusted in other government schools.