Mumbai: Grace Pinto, 62, managing director of Ryan International Group of Institutions and trustee of St Xavier's Schools was granted interim protection from arrest along with her husband and founding chairman Augustine F Pinto (73) by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday.
The group which runs over 186 schools in 18 Indian states and some based abroad, has been in the news for the murder of a Class II student, inside the Ryan International School campus in Gurugram.
The shocking case of the murder of a seven-year-old boy has highlighted the need for children's security inside schools. The whole country is sorrowed over the death of the Class 2 student, whose throat was slit inside the school, allegedly by a bus conductor.
But this is not the first incident involving a school run by the Ryan International Group of Institutions. The Ryan Group has been a repeat offender when it comes to negligence in securing the safety of children.
In 2016, a child's body was found inside a water tank on the premises of the Ryan International School’s Vasant Kunj branch. In another case, a seven-year-child was sexually abused by the principal of St Xavier's School (the Pintos are trustees of St Xavier's Education Trust which runs the school) in Andheri, a western suburb of Mumbai.
So, who are the Pintos who having founded the Ryan Group in 1976 by Augustine with the first Ryan International School in Mumbai, went on to become an education giant in India. And even though two children have lost their lives in two schools run by the group, how is it that the school continues to enjoy a good and memorable standing in the society.
According to sources, a lot of it has to do with the political reach of the Pintos, especially Grace.
Firstpost has learned from sources that Grace maintains well-balanced relations with all political parties and has access to most powerful political leaders across the country. She has often met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit as well as education ministers of different states where the Ryan group runs its schools, and top party leaders of BJP as well as Congress.
In fact, very recently Grace met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi along with Vijaya Rahatkar, who is National president of BJP Mahila Morcha and also the president of Maharashtra State Commission for Women. The BJP website features Grace as the general secretary of BJP Mahila Morcha from Mumbai.
The school management has benefited from the ruling establishment whether Congress or BJP.
"In fact, the growth of the Ryan International Group of Institutions would not have been possible without the political skills of the Pintos, especially that of Grace," said a source close to the group.
The group runs 186 schools in 18 states and abroad too. It has more than 18,000 faculty members and 3 lakhs students across the country. "Naturally, every political party wants to connect with us and vice versa," the source said, adding, "We are not directly affiliated with any party but most of the VVIPs present in our school functions are."
Over the years, Pinto has become the most visible and trust worthy face of the Ryan group. She is co-promoter and managing director of the 130-plus chain of schools. Always on the move, Grace is also a trustee of St Xavier Schools across Mumbai and Maharashtra which has more than 50 branches.
Pinto is very much ambitious and interested in politics too.
Earlier, Grace was closely connected with Congress. Senior Congress leaders from Congress including both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi have met Grace on many occasions. She had been lobbying for the Padma Shri award for herself, and a seat in the National Commission for Minorities for her husband. But after Congress paid no heed to her desires when the UPA was in power, Grace switched her loyalty to BJP after Narendra Modi came to power.
After Grace formally joined BJP Mahila Morcha in 2015, the Ryan management allegedly ran a forced membership drive for the BJP in all its institutions. During this drive teachers, non-teaching staff and students were allegedly forced to enroll into BJP membership. But later on, the management clarified that the membership was not mandatory and that an NGO was taking all the membership forms.
Firstpost has learned from sources that Grace was allegedly promised a Rajyasabha seat from the President's quota if she successfully completed more than lakhs of memberships. Recently, Grace had met with home minister Rajnath Singh, Maharashtra Chief Minsiter Devendra Fadnavis and other political bigwigs in award ceremonies in Mumbai and Delhi.
A Maths teacher, Grace has won a number of awards over the years. The Ryan group is headed by her son Ryan acting as the CEO of the group and primarily looking at the expansion of the group.
Firstpost repeatedly tried to contact the office of Grace Pinto, managing director of the Ryan International Group Institutions but was met with no response. Our calls and messages to BJP Mahila Morcha national president Vijaya Rahatkar also went unanswered.
Updated Date: Jun 08, 2018 16:55 PM