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Protective Discrimination In Education

Protective Discrimination In Education

Education is one of the most effective tools to secure minorities to establish and administer educational institutions for larger goal of achieving universal literacy. Article 29 and Article 30 of the Indian constitution enunciates the educational rights of minorities. Article 30 (1) secures to religious and linguistic minorities a right to establish and administer educational institutions apropos their own choice and preference. To make the protection purposeful, a prohibition is imposed under article 30 (2) against discrimination by the state in matters of financial aid to educational institutions on the grounds of their being under the management of a religious or linguistic minority and a further prohibition under article 29 (2) against denial of admission in any educational institution on grounds of religion, race, caste or language.

The prime objective of these provisions is to protect religious and linguistic minorities from discrimination and to allow them to safeguard their linguistic and religious customs. But to be fair, mere adoption of these rights in constitution cannot itself be a guarantee unless the rights are given meaning and significance by the courts which posses the power of enforcement.

The Parliament of India on 4th August 2009 enacted Right to Education Act for free and compulsory education for children aged between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21 (A) of the Indian Constitution. India became the 135th country to make ‘education’ a fundamental right which is enforceable in any court of law and came into force on 1st April 2010. Basic objective of this act is that no child, other than a child who has been admitted by his/her parents to a school which is not supported by the government, shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges which may prevent him/her from pursuing and completing elementary education. Thus it is the sole responsibility of the state to provide free and compulsory education to children in between age group of 6-14 years. Taking in consideration the aforementioned enactment of parliament, Odisha is the 3rd State in India to implement this Act.

During the 11th and 12th five year plan period many schemes were introduced for minority education. Some of those include----

1.   Scheme for providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM)

2.   Scheme for infrastructure development of private aided/unaided minority institution (IDMI)

3.   Extension of Mid-day meals (MDM) scheme for Madrasas and Maqtabs

4.   National monetary committee for minorities education (NMCME)

Rolling out of these schemes is a plus sign but in India there lies a big gap between planning and implementation. Owing to poor implementation, arbitrary decision making and a lack of awareness and monitoring among beneficiaries, the result of different schemes are far from satisfactory.

As per 2001 official census report, the literacy rate of Christians in India is 80.3% while in Odisha it is a mere 54.9%.

Non accessibility of MDM scheme in many Christian minority government schools

The Honourable Supreme Court of India in its direction given in 2001 had linked the feeding program of children to quality education program of Government. All state governments in the country have to ensure that every child coming to school gets one cooked meal for lunch on school days. The MDM also provides incentives for parents to send their children to school, thereby reducing the dropout rates. It’s also a program meant to improve the nutritional status among the students thus saving them from malnutrition. In Odisha the nutritional status of students as well as school attendance rates have improved drastically after the implementation of MDM scheme.  Although Government Of India has extended MDM to madrasas but in state of Odisha, Christian minority managed schools (approx 100 in numbers) who were previously covered under MDM scheme in Sundergarh district are now being deprived of this scheme. In 2013-14 the Govt of Odisha based on the findings of AG audit report, stopped MDM schemes in minority managed schools in Sundergarh district. Now only these Christian minority schools who are receiving full Government aid are covered under the MDM scheme. In Sundergarh district there are around 2300 elementary government schools, 182 government aided schools and 240 unaided private schools. Majority of the unaided private schools in rural Sundergarh are managed by Christian minority institutions. Most Christians in Sundergarh reside in rural areas and most of the students who go to vernacular schools which are either run by Govt or by Christian missionary institutions for their education, are deprived of MDM. This denial of MDM scheme is resulting in dropouts of students from these schools.

Comparative analysis of dropout rates in upper primary schools in three districts of Odisha is given in the table below-

Districts Of Odisha

2012-13

2014-15

Gajapati

7.55

11.18

Kandhamal

5.94

8.63

Sundergarh

0.64

1.71

 

 

 

                                                     

 

 

 

Source: DISE (District Information for School Education), School & Mass Education Department, Government of Odisha

The above table clearly depicts that there is an increase in dropout rates in elementary education of Odisha specifically in these three districts which have a considerable Christian population. Many reasons can be attributed to increase in dropout rates but one of the major causes might be the sudden non-accessibility of MDM scheme for unaided Christian minority schools.

Education is a fundamental right under Article 21 (A). Free books, School uniforms are distributed in Government aided schools, Sanskrit Tol, madrasas etc. but Christian minority managed unaided schools are being deprived of this. They have to purchase books at a discounted rate of 50% of the original cost. In some cases even this facility (discounted price) is not available. There’s an exigency to take up this matter at Government of Odisha and Government of India level. Government of India has expanded the MDM scheme to madrasas during 2012-13 but it is unfathomable as to why Christian minority managed unaided schools in some districts of Odisha are not being entitled for this scheme. It’s inexplicable that so far this matter has not been challenged in any court of law despite a clear cut violation of fundamental rights as enshrined in Article 21 (A) of Indian Constitution.

Discrimination In Budget Provisioning 

A cursory look into the state budget of S&ME Dept of 2015/16 available in its official website depicts the following:

Budget provision for Sanskrit Tols for 2016/17 both in non-plan and state plan comes to Rs 35.97 crores and for Madrasas it is 10.73 crores. In comparison to this there is only one Christian minority institution (Thompson Training School of Cuttack) for which there is a provision of 21.04 lakhs. No other Christian minority institutions in state budget are receiving direct aids as reflected in budget documents of S&ME Dept of Government of Odisha. 

This comparative analysis shows that despite Christians being the 2nd largest religious group in Odisha, there is a glaring discrimination of State Aid to Christian minority managed institutions. Many reasons can be attributed for such discrimination but one of the major reasons is that the Christian population in Odisha neither have political clouts nor bureaucratic support to receive the grant in aid for their institutions. In Odisha for teacher education, both CT (Certificate Training) courses and B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) are imparted in government owned institutions. There is only one private CT school named “Thompson Women’s Secondary Training School” for imparting teacher education. It’s located at Cuttack. This school is the oldest CT training school in Odisha since pre-independence period. Despite having AICTE affiliation, the Government aid this school receives is quite nominal. The infrastructure of the school is abysmal and due to the scant grant received by the school from Government, teachers are not well paid. Although as per article 30 (1) it is the right of minority to ‘administer educational institutions of their choice’, yet there is a regular interference of Government in the management of the school. Further, in violation of article 30 (2), there is a discrimination of the state in providing financial support to such an old, renowned and only privately managed CT school in Odisha. As mentioned above, due to irregular flow of funds, school teachers are not getting salaries in time and the infrastructure is not being maintained properly. The Govt of Odisha needs to be intimated about these facts.

Lack of fund flow for Infrastructure development

There are many schemes under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Sikhya Abhiyan (RMSA) and Scheme for the infrastructure development of the private Aided and Unaided minority institution (IDMI). In Odisha around 46 crores rupees has been earmarked in the budget of School and Mass Education Department for development of Schools like Sanskrit Tol and madrasas which includes payment to teachers working in these schools. Shelter upper primary school at Cuttack and Mission school also known as Christ Collegiate School at Cuttack, are two of the oldest schools at Cuttack, Odisha which are being run by Christian ministries. These schools have heritage buildings which are now in a depleted condition due to non-availability of funds for maintenance and repair of the building. I’m just citing two examples but there are several other Christian minority managed schools which are not receiving any government aid and are therefore at sixes and sevens with unsafe school buildings. There are Government aided schemes for infrastructure development of minority aided and unaided schools but these schemes are not extended to Christian managed schools. As a result some of these Christian missionary managed schools in Odisha are behind the eight ball. Is this not a flagrant violation of Article 30 (2) of the Indian Constitution which clearly states that the state cannot discriminate in providing financial aid to minority governed institutions? It’s surprising that despite IDMI scheme having been introduced half a decade back, still there is no fund flow from government of India to state government till 2016-17. It is also pertinent to mention that in the declaration of PM’s new 15 point programs for minorities based on the SACHAR committee report in education sector two major schemes like SPQEM and IDMI are unfurled. But in these two centrally sponsored schemes there is no devolution of funds to the states.

The aforementioned evidences showcases that the unaided Christian minority managed Schools are not receiving the due attention of the state despite being pillars for educational development in remote and hilly areas of the state. 

(The writer is currently doing his BA. LLB at National Law University (NLU), Odisha. The writer can be reached at-- abhilasprime26@gmail.com)

(Published on 03th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 27)