'Do Not Bring Us Under RTE Act': Minority Groups Oppose To Review RTE Act Exemptions For Minority-Run Educational Institutions

'Do Not Bring Us Under RTE Act': Minority Groups Oppose To Review RTE Act Exemptions For Minority-Run Educational Institutions

The government says that many educational organisations that claim minority-run status have a majority of their students from groups that are not from the community.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Friday, April 19, 2024, 12:24 AM IST
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Minority groups have opposed suggestions by the Maharashtra State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) to review exemptions in the Right To Information (RTE) Act 2009 granted to educational institutions run by religious and linguistic minorities, saying that the plans will be a violation of minority rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitutions.

Earlier this week, Susieben Shah, chairperson of MSCPCR, said that educational institutions run by minority groups were misusing the policy. She added that the state government should fix a minimum percentage of students from the institution's minority group that needs to be enrolled in the school or college to support its claim for minority status. This would mean that licences should be given only if the institution has a certain minimum percentage of students from its own group.

Minority schools do not have to implement the RTE policy, including rules that mandate that 25% of seats for students from economically distressed backgrounds. Legislations and court orders have established that RTE rules are subjected to Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution relating to minority rights, minority groups have claimed.

Sanjay Jain of the Vishwa Jain Sanghatna said that the government should not intervene in the law. “The RTE law does not apply to minority institutions. The government cannot fix a minimum quota for minority students in their institutions. At the most, a minority institution can be penalised if it does not grant a seat to a student from its group,” said Jain.

Challenges Faced By Minority-Run Schools In Implementing RTE Act

In Mumbai, managements of schools run by minority groups said that it is impossible to fill 50% of their seats with only students from their community. The South Indian Education Society (SIES), a Tamil linguistic minority institution which is largely in higher education but runs two schools, said that an ‘extremely low’ percentage of its students are from their group. “Speakers of south Indian languages are only 3.7% of the state’s population. In Mumbai, the percentage could be even less. The institution cannot fill 50% of its seats with minority students,” said Dr V Shankar, president of SIES who said that in many cases, poor children are not benefitting from the law because of various reasons.

Minority groups have said that including their institutions in the ambit of the RTE Act would violate their right to conserve their language and culture, as defined in Article 29, and their right to establish and administer educational institutions, as defined in Article 30.  “This is a violation of fundamental rights of Minorities under Article 29 and 30 of Indian Constitution and several landmark Supreme court of India Judgements,” said Dhanpal Solanki, advocate and member of Vishwa Jain Sanghatana.

NCPCR Report Highlights Disparity In Student Composition Of Minority-Run Schools

This is not the first time that child rights bodies have suggested the inclusion of minority-run educational institutions under the ambit of the law. In August 2021, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), released a report titled ‘Impact of Exemption under Article 15 (5) with regards to Article 21A of the Constitution of India on Education of Children in Minority Communities’. The report said that only 8.76 % of students in such schools were from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The government says that many educational organisations that claim minority-run status have a majority of their students from groups that are not from the community. The NCPCR study said that 60% of students in minority-run schools were from non-minority groups. In the case of schools run by Christian groups, the percentage was even higher – 74%.

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