Arvind Kejriwal is brash, impetuous and brimming with contradictions. It’s hard not to bemoan the sheer quantity of opportunities the man has squandered. But there is an unmistakable sense of streetwise craftiness about some of his most audacious policy decisions.
What he lacks in finesse, he more than makes up for in brazen imaginativeness. The 6 January Directorate of Education circular “scrapping unjust criteria for admission in private unaided recognised schools” is one such. It identifies 62 such elements – all of them self-evidently ludicrous – for elimination (and censure).
Although Kejriwal himself singled out the much-reviled ‘management quota’ for condemnation, the others are equally reprehensible (some are extraordinarily comical.)
Kejriwal said the cabinet has taken a decision to scrap the quotas and 75 percent of the total seats except 25 percent for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), will be up for grabs by all admission seekers. Certain criteria put out by the schools were "very shocking" and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution relating to equality before law, he said. The decision by the government came in the midst of the admission process for nursery classes in over 2,500 private schools in the capital.
"What is management quota? Under it, you get admission if someone is recommended by a chief minister, education minister, judge, police commissioner, SHOs or by an income tax official. Either it is recommendations or seats are sold. "Management quota is the biggest scandal in the country which the Delhi government is scrapping. 75 percent admissions in the private schools will be under open category.
Other than EWS category, there will be no other quota," Kejriwal told a press conference.
Warning schools of stringent action in case of violations, he said his government will use all available options against erring institutions, including takeover. "If they do not budge, they can be derecognised or government can take them over," he said, adding "the mafia had captured the education system and made it a business. The government will not tolerate this."
Following the Cabinet decision, Directorate of Education issued an order directing all the private unaided recognised schools to "develop and adopt criteria for admissions for the 75 percent Open seats to entry level classes for session 2016-17 which shall be clear, well defined, equitable, non-discriminatory, unambiguous and transparent." All these criteria and their points were to be uploaded on the departmental website.
Kejriwal, with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, seated beside him, said the decision was taken to ensure that the admission process becomes pro-people and transparent. Private schools in Delhi have quotas for management, siblings, alumni and many others.
The decision also prohibits schools from making parents declare details like whether they smoke or drink or consume non-vegetarian food. The high court, in an order, had asked the Delhi government not to micro-manage the admission process following which the Education Department had allowed the schools to frame their respective criteria and put them on their websites.
The government also quoted Delhi High Court's judgment dated 19 February 2013 saying it had held that private unaided schools cannot be allowed to run as teaching shops. "The Education Department officials told me that court has directed not to micro-manage the admission process. I told them not to worry. Tell the court that I have done this. I will tell the court that management quota is the biggest scandal and this should be stopped. And now the Cabinet has given its approval," said Kejriwal.
The government said in case of no admission criteria, the schools have to follow the admission schedule of the department. If the number of applications are more than the seats available then draw of lots may be conducted and admissions to be done as per schedule. This criteria providing for additional points which were abolished by the government included joint family, government employee, vegetarianism, first time admission seekers, non-smoker parent and on special ground like if the candidate is having proficiency in music and sports.
The points for taking school transport, working parents, parents with proficiency in music, sports and national awardee as well as they having transferable jobs have also been done away with. The government issued a list of 62 criteria announcing that all these have been abolished. It said the list is indicative and not exhaustive and asked the schools to remove all the criteria and points which are "not just, clear, well defined and discriminatory."
Kejriwal said some of the criteria put out by schools were not acceptable at all. "Children of the those parents who eat non-vegetarian food, smoke or drink will not get admission. Those parents who know music and painting will get more marks. The criteria are so arbitrary, wrong and discriminatory. What does this mean? "You have a handle in your hand and you will decide whom to give admission. It is not acceptable," Kejriwal said. Listing out examples of quotas in different schools, he said one school had reserved 75 per cent seats under management quota and only 25 percent were open.
"The quotas include management quota, sibling quota and what not. In some schools, only 25 per cent seats are open. An order is being issued that only 25 percent seats will be reserved and it will be for EWS category. "The court had not allowed quota. 25 percent quota is for the EWS and you have to give 75 percent seats for general category," he said.
With inputs from PTI