Right to education only on paper

January 6, 2009: The Times of India

New Delhi: The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act was billed to be a giant leap towards universalization of education in India. However, it has acquired the dubious distinction of being the only fundamental right that exists just on paper. 

More than seven years after the Constitution was amended in 2002 to make free and compulsory education to children in the age group of 6-14 a fundamental right and over four months after the historic Right to Education Bill was passed in Parliament, both the legislations are yet to be notified. 

Without notification — a mandatory step that gives the exact date from when the law comes into force — the right to free and compulsory education remains just a goal. 

All along, the reason given for not notifying the constitutional amendment was that a law to enforce the fundamental right was not in place. Two years of NDA regime and five years of UPA-1 were spent quibbling over the cost of implementing such a legislation. The bill was finally passed by Parliament last August. Strangely, there is still no movement towards notification. 

HRD minister Kapil Sibal has been saying the face of education will change completely with RTE Act. He is right. But the trouble is that the objective will remain a distant dream so long as the ideas of the legislation lack any legal teeth. 

The ostensible reason for delay in notification is that its cost is still being worked out, though the HRD ministry has pegged the cost of implementation at Rs 1.71 lakh crore for five years. Besides, ‘‘many reforms in the Act do not cost money. If it is notified in end-March to be applicable from April 1, state governments will be caught unprepared without budget allocations. Early notification would have helped put a system in place,’’ a source associated with its implementation said.

Result Still Awaited

1993 | Supreme Court in Unnikrishnan judgment talks of free and compulsory education

2002 | NDA regime passes 86th constitutional amendment promising free and compulsory education to children aged 6-14. From a directive principle, education becomes a fundamental right

2004-09 | UPA-I sets up two high-powered committees to work out the cost of implementing Right to Education Bill

Dec 2008 | Bill gets introduced in Rajya Sabha

Aug 2009 | Parliament passes RTE Bill. Total cost of implementation for five years estimated at Rs 1.71 lakh crore

Crucial edu reforms held up

New Delhi: The delay in notifying the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act is holding up crucial steps towards achieving goals in education. What happens if the Act is not notified? For one, all systemic reforms laid out in the RTE Act cannot be put in place without notification. These include maintaining a teacher-student ratio of 1:30. ‘‘If the Act was in place, steps could have been taken for redeployment of teachers to attain the stipulated ratio. This could have helped bridge the urban-rural imbalance in teacher-student ratio,’’ a source said. Similarly, provisions in section 29 of the Act that deal with curriculum and examination reforms could have been put in place.


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