Right to Education (RTE) continues to haunt the non-minority private schools across the nation. The problems and corruption related to RTE are already exposed in our previous articles. Under the RTE act, 25% seats from all private non-minority (aided or unaided) schools are reserved for children from underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds. The government reimburses fees of these students. Cases of corruption and malpractices in the root level of RTE have drawn out the real face of RTE, which is hidden behind the facade of social justice.
RTE has given birth to a new scam, where in order to get admissions under the RTE quota parents have started producing fake documents to show that they belong to Economically Weaker Section (EWS).
RTE Fake Certificate Scam in Mumbai
A fresh case has come to light from Mumbai where an RTE applicant, who claimed to have a monthly income of 9000 INR, was found to be paying monthly electricity bill of 4000 INR. This resulted in further investigations, which was carried by the authorities in Lakshadham and Yashodham Schools, Goregaon, who unknowingly unearthed a scam related to Right to Education (RTE) seats.
According to this article, while looking at the documents of 1,000 students admitted to the school through the quota in the past three years, the school authorities noticed discrepancies in the bar-codes of some income certificates and other documents submitted by the applicants at the time of admission. The office of the Tehsildar, Borivli, confirmed that 66 out of more than 70 certificates were not genuine. They had no record of issuing these certificates. Additionally, 11 more certificates are still being scrutinised.
The second round of admissions are now delayed and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said they will not start the next round unless pending admissions of the previous round are cleared. Schools are still verifying the documents of applicants as they are scared by the ongoing scam of fake documents.
Government Shifts Onus on Schools to Verify Documents
The task of authenticating and verification of the documents of RTE students was carried out by the government officials till last year but now the burden of verification of all the documents has been transferred to schools. When school authorities extensively checked each document that was submitted by the students this year, they were able to detect the ongoing scam. This attracts a question that if Government authorities were carrying out the verification process earlier, why the fake documents were not caught in the earlier process?
According to the schools in Mumbai, the fraud has been perpetrated on a much larger scale for the past three years at least, since the RTE admissions were enforced in 2011-12. This lays open the possibility that even many government officials are part of this scam.
According to the new rules by the Education Department of Maharashtra, parents of the applicants under RTE quota have to upload documents online and submit the Originals only at the time of confirming their admission, whereas earlier the documents were submitted to education officials at various help centres across the cities. This has increased the burden on school authorities as they have to go through a huge number of applications and they are not trained to authenticate and verify the official document which makes the task more strenuous and leaves a possibility of anomalies being overlooked. And by shifting the onus of verification on schools, the legal responsibility for ensuring no fake admissions are allowed also falls on the schools – it would not be surprising if we see school principals and management being arrested in the near future in these cases.
This is a classic example of how the license-permit raj mafia works. The situation is alarming as people with fake certificates are getting admission and parents are being lured to approach agents to generate fake documents.
Fake RTE Certificate Racket in Delhi
In other news, a police probe revealed that almost 1000 students from 200 schools across Delhi had taken admission under RTE with the help of fake EWS certificates. Police has started further investigation on this incident and speculates that more numbers will emerge as the investigation will progress.
The news report gives more details on this scam –
“Delhi Police Crime Branch is set to file a supplementary charge sheet next month in the EWS scam naming principals of four private schools as the main accused. Additionally, the chargesheet would also name 95 couples as the main accused, added the source. RTE is putting schools at risk of police prosecution and the schools are at a constant threat under RTE.
Earlier, Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Ravindra Yadav had said these fake EWS certificates were used to gain admission in several schools including DPS in Rohini, Vasant Kunj, RK Puram, Mathura Road; Junior Modern School in Humayun Road; Lancer Convent, Ryan International School, Montfort School in Ashok Vihar; GD Goenka, Heritage School, Vikas Bharti in Rohini; and Bal Bharti School in Pitampura.
“The EWS certificates of nearly 70 per cent students were found forged and most of these certificates were made from outside the offices of sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) by touts. They took Rs 500 to Rs 5,000 from parents,” added the source.
Investigation also found that some of the schools sent these EWS certificates to the offices of SDMs concerned during the process of scrutiny, but did not receive any reply in the last three years, said the source.
“The Crime Branch recently sought answers from SDM offices, but most could not give satisfactory replies. Answers came from two offices, but without documents being provided,” added the source.”
It is not clear why only school principals & parents are named as accused when it is quite likely that the Government Officials in Delhi (such as SDMs) are also culpable either for negligence or active involvement in the racket. This whole corrupt ecosystem has come up due to unnecessary Government intervention in the functioning of private educational enterprises.
Every initiative started by the UPA government led by Sonia Gandhi somehow evolved its own specific model of corruption & scams – RTE is no different. Time and again the whole concept of RTE has been exposed with its (intentional?) design shortcomings. RTE was designed ostensibly to create a better education system for Bharat, but it has landed the whole school education system in catastrophe.
RTE: A Lose-Lose proposition for Hindu schools
According to another article, two Hindu run schools in Mysore are at a risk of police prosecution as they asked money for uniform and books from RTE students and denied admission to nine students when they refused to pay the dues. According to RTE, they can’t deny admission of EWS students on any grounds. What we don’t realize is that these schools are out of funds by accommodating RTE students and delay in reimbursement by government has made the functioning of these schools very difficult.
This is an alarming situation as RTE is directly hitting the best performing component of our rickety education sector: the private school system; and only the Hindu run private schools at that. It is hard to believe that such an ill-designed, sectarian law which is crippling something as crucial as school education is not being debated in civil society. Forget rescinding this invidious law, there is hardly any talk of even reforming it. It is good to see the improved focus on infrastructure, financial inclusion, foreign affairs, sanitation, and even skill development since the new Modi Government was sworn in on May 2014. But education does not appear to figure on their priority list. This is a critical oversight, as civilizations which do not value education are susceptible to decay and deterioration. The failure of Government schools cannot be fixed by wrecking the private school system.