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Why is this Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey observing indefinite fast in Lucknow?


By Mumtaz Alam,,

Lucknow / New Delhi, 13 July 2015: Like many other social laws in the country, it seems, the historic Right To Education Act is also struggling to stand on its feet – thanks to the lethargic attitude of the governments themselves. Even five years after the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) came into existence, its most ambitious and revolutionary provision has hardly been implemented. Eminent social activist and Ramon Magsaysay award winner Dr Sandeep Pandey is observing indefinite fast for implementation of this provision.

“Today is the fourth day of my fast. We have met the District Magistrate and the school authorities have come to my home over the issue but we have got no result yet,” Dr Pandey told over phone.

He sat on the fast at his home in Lucknow on 10th July with one-point demand: Lucknow’s esteemed City Montessori School should admit 31 children of the poor families – 23 from Valmiki community and 8 from the Muslim community – under the much-touted 25% quota for poor children under the RTE.

“These children are from the same ward where I live in Lucknow. An NGO working in the field of education had distributed forms in entire Lucknow for admission of poor students in private schools under the RTE’s 25% quota. These 31 children live in a jhuggi basti. The District school authorities ordered City Montessori School to admit these children under the quota but the school is not implementing the order,” said Dr Pandey who is also national vice president of Socialist Party.

While he is observing the fast his associates are observing sit-in at the office of District Magistrate. “Today they held a protest sit-in at DM’s office. They talked to the officials but no solution has yet come out.”

Bigger Issue

It is not just the case of 31 children or City Montessori School. In fact, there are six lakh poor students in Uttar Pradesh alone who are entitled to get admission in private schools under the RTE provision but they haven’t been able to as private schools emboldened with ‘soft’ attitude of the government are not allowing them in.

“Ideally, there should be common school system in India so that every child gets similar education. That has not happened. The UPA government brought RTE with 25% quota provision for poor students. If this provision is implemented, six lakh students will get admission in private schools in UP alone. It is the first time in India that poor children are getting opportunity to get admission in private schools. Otherwise they would go to government schools and there was a gap between rich and poor children. RTE was the first initiative to fill the gap,” he said.

Like City Montessori, other private schools have also started giving excuses and are not taking poor students under the quota then how the poor students will study at good schools, he asks.

“The government brought the law three years ago but has failed to implement it fully on the ground. It is very clear and this has resulted in the situation where today the City Montessori is not taking admission even after the DSE order.”

“The officials of City Montessori School reached my home and had talks for two hours but did not accept the demand,” said Panday.

6 lakh poor students in UP entitled for admission at private schools

According to Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation, an NGO working in the field of education, there are six lakh poor students in UP alone who are entitled to get admission at private schools under the 25% quota given by RTE, but they are reluctant to admit them.

“We are working on this subject for last three years to ensure provisions of RTE are implemented on the ground. First, the state government did not want to implement it thinking they will have to spend all money and the centre will not bear charges,” said Samina of the Foundation.

“The low level and middle level private schools are ready to accept it but the 4-5% elite schools are not ready and as their lobby is strong other schools are also not implementing the provision. The government has done little to implement the provision in last four years,” she told

She claimed that last year only 54 admissions were made under the provision but this year, thanks to hard efforts of her group, at least 3000 such admissions have been made.

Of late, she says the government has shown interest to implement the provision particularly after the clear indications from the centre that it will bear the costs.

Samina’s Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation works for improvement in education quality, on policy level with government and at implementation level.

Meanwhile, the activists have created an online petition at demanding the UP govt. to implement RTE act in totality.

“UP government is not implementing the RTE act in totality to have 25% reservation for underprivileged children under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. RTE Act has the potential to impact 6 lakhs underprivileged and poor children in Uttar Pradesh alone. If implemented honestly throughout India, it has potential to change the face of India by reducing the segregation in society,” reads the petition.

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