Maharashtra: Activist Issues Legal Notice To Edu Minister Deepak Kesarkar Over Delayed Action On ISKCON-Run Andheri School

Maharashtra: Activist Issues Legal Notice To Edu Minister Deepak Kesarkar Over Delayed Action On ISKCON-Run Andheri School

The activist claimed that the school education department and Kesarkar are purposely trying to protect the school, even as ISKCON has denied any wrongdoing.

Siksha MUpdated: Tuesday, January 16, 2024, 09:57 PM IST
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Education Minister Deepak Kesarkar | Sanjay Tambe

A city-based activist has served a legal notice to the state School Education Minister Deepak Kesarkar and other officials for failing to withdraw approval to an Andheri school run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) that has been facing investigation for allegedly forcing parents to purchase uniforms and other supplies from its designated vendor.

In his notice, Nitin Dalvi, a member of the Maharashtra State Student-Parent Teacher Federation (MSSPTF), has faulted the state for not taking acting against the Bhaktivedanta Swami Mission School, managed by ISKCON Juhu, six months after the minister conducted a hearing into various complaints against the institute. The activist claimed that the school education department and Kesarkar are purposely trying to protect the school, even as ISKCON has denied any wrongdoing.

The issue first surfaced in 2017 when the father of a then-student at the school complained that the management was forcing parents to buy uniforms and education materials from a particular vendor, violating a government resolution (GR) issued in 2004. Following an inquiry, the deputy director of education for the Mumbai region last year sent a proposal to the principal secretary, and school education department recommending the cancellation of the No Objection Certificate (NOC) given to the school, which offers the Council for Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) curriculum. Later, a hearing was conducted in July before the minister to assess the complaints against the school.

Dalvi, in his notice, said that the hearing made it evident that the school did violate the GR, while also engaging in financial malpractices, looting parents and misleading them about their approval under the Right to Education (RTE). Hence, it was expected that the government would withdraw the school’s NOC after the hearing, he said.

However, Braj Hari Das, President, ISKCON Juhu, claimed that the complaint against the school was politically motivated and couldn’t be a ground for the cancellation of their approval. “We had required purchasing uniforms from a single vendor to ensure standard quality. There was no ill intention to make money off of it. In any case, we have discontinued this practice. We bore the cost of uniforms given to underprivileged students admitted under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, even though we haven't been reimbursed for it by the government,” he said.

Das added, “We have an enrollment of 1,100 students. Our approval can’t be cancelled merely based on a small complaint,” he said. There was no response to a request for comment from Kesarkar's staff.

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