Right to Education sign now

Education as a fundamental right cannot be denied in any democratic society. It is the duty of the Government to provide for and guarantee this fundamental right. The Indian Government's recent decision to drop the long pending Right to Education Bill (RTE) and pass it on to the State Governments as a model bill, is a completely outrageous decision ignoring not only a fundamental right but also the genuine expectations of each and every citizen.

We, as concerned citizens of India, view education as an inalienable right of every child in India. In this context, the proposed action of our Government to leave this obligation to the States concerns us deeply. We demand that the Central Government:

1. NOT ABDICATE ITS CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION: Education is a fundamental right as per the 86th Amendment to the Indian Constitution. As per the Indian Constitution education is a concurrent subject, meaning it is a responsibility of both State and Central Governments. The Central Government has a constitutional obligation towards providing this fundamental right. The Central Governments decision to pass the RTE Bill to the States and to ask the individual State Governments to enact them at their own pace, amounts to abdication of responsibility on the part of the Central Government.

2. RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF ELEMENTARY EDUCATION: The Central Government is ready to spend money for increasing seats in higher education courses to ensure seats in open category, whereas it pleads lack of funds when funding elementary education, even though the quality of infrastructure and education in most government schools is abysmal. This is completely unacceptable. Instead of juxtaposing primary education with higher education as if one comes at the cost of the other, the Central Government needs to make elementary education its highest priority. Lack of funds as a reason to eschew the RTE Bill is completely unacceptable and that too when the government spends less than two percent of GDP on elementary education. Legislation and funds must be directed as needed to make sure this Bill is enacted and the required infrastructure is provided.

3. PRESENT THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION BILL IN THE INDIAN PARLIAMENT: The Right to Education must remain a Central Bill, to fulfill the Constitutional guarantee. Four years have passed since the 86th Amendment and no action has been taken so far. Hence, the Central Government of India must present the Right to Education Bill without further delay in this monsoon session of the Parliament.

4. PROVIDE FOR FREE AND EQUITABLE EDUCATION: The Central Government must ensure that entirely free education of equitable quality is guaranteed and must cover all costs of education, not merely fees. Equitable quality should mean more than a mere opportunity to study in a government run school. Equitable quality should mean that provisions for minimum standard are guaranteed by law irrespective of the flow of funds, number of children and the location of the school.

5. MAKE RIGHT TO EDUCATION ENFORCEABLE AND JUSTICIABLE: As per the Indian Constitution, The Central Government must be held accountable if it fails to provide this fundamental right to a child. In contrast, the Right to Education Draft Bill explicitly exempts the Government from such accountability.

6. PROVIDE SPACE FOR PUBLIC FEEDBACK AND CRITICISM: Several groups and educationalists have provided detailed analyses and criticism on this issue. The Government must provide avenues for feedback and address concerns of the people. In contrast, the so-called Model Bill has not been made available to the public for comments.

7. PROVIDE FOR TIMELY IMPLEMENTATION OF THE BILL: The Central Government must come up with a timetable for implementation of various aspects of the Bill in consultation with the implementing authorities. The timetable must include guarantees about infrastructure and general quality of education in all government schools. In addition, a high-level task force must be set up under the leadership of the Prime Minister of India to drive the implementation of the Bill. The task force must include representatives of State, local Governments, teachers, NCERT, NGO's and parents. Such a task force must be setup even at the State Government levels.

More information on the demands, including a list of organizations supporting them can be found at http://www.ashanet.org/campaigns/rte/2006/.

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Silvia HigginsBy:
Petition target:
the Prime Minister (PM) of India, the Human Resource Development Minister, the Finance Minister, the Dy. Chairperson of the Planning Commission and the Economic Advisor to the PM of India


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