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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Govt still undecided about collection of fee by pvt schools for period of turmoil

Chaos among parents but empowered committee receives just 2 complaints in Kashmir, both from parents of DPS Srinagar

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 22: Even as chaos and confusion is prevailing among hundreds of thousands of the parents in Kashmir valley, Mehbooba Mufti government is still undecided over the fees private educational institutes are demanding and charging for more than four months of total shutdown.

Almost all the government-run and private schools and colleges remained closed for administrative and curricular activity for 130 days after the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter triggered off street turbulence in the Valley. While as curfew remained in force continuously for over a month, the separatist-sponsored shutdown went on without any daytime relaxation till November 19.

While around 90 persons got killed and around 15,000 (including some 7,000 Police and security forces personnel) sustained injuries and fractures, more than 75 vehicles and 35 school buildings were torched by unruly mobs during the period of mayhem. In all, more than 15,000 vehicles were damaged in stone pelting, mostly by the shutdown vigilantes tasked to enforce the separatists’ call.

Chairman of the Committee for Fixation of Fee Structure of Private Educational Institutions in Jammu and Kashmir, Justice (retd.) Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, told STATE TIMES that a decision whether to collect the fees from the students for the turmoil period was to be taken by the State Government. According to him, no such decision had been taken or communicated either to the private schools or the parents or the High Court (which is hearing a PIL on the subject) or the Committee.

“A day or two before the Durbar Move from Srinagar last month, there were continual deliberations in the Government’s School Education Department on this issue. High Court too has asked the Government to explain its stand. We are told that the Government has assured the Court that it would make a considered opinion in consultation with the Committee. But, till date, this matter has not been referred to us either by the Government or by the High Court”, Justice Hussain asserted.

“We are appropriately seized of the matter and well aware that both, the parents as well as the school operators, are in distress and conflict over this issue. However, just two parents of the students of just one school (DPS Athwajan, Srinagar) approached us with formal complaints. In response to our notice, DPS management contended that our Committee had no competence to decide whether or not the fee was to be charged by the private schools. They pleaded that the Committee was empowered only to regulate the fee structures of the recognised private educational institutions. Nevertheless, the DPS management made a commitment in writing that it would examine each representation on case-to-case basis and grant concessions wherever warranted”, Justice Hussain revealed.

With regard to the months of September and October 2014, when parts of the Valley were paralysed due to devastating floods, the Committee had received as many as 300 representations. Justice Hussain said that 270 of these complaints had been decided. “Relief was granted to the students living in flood-affected areas but denied to those who lived in normal areas. We have still around 30 of such petitions under consideration”, Justice Hussaid said, pointing out, inter alia, to the directions of the High Court issued after the floods.

“We are facing a host of hardships in determination of matters and delivering justice. There are lacunae which prevent us from taking up such matters. But, the Government is now expected to bring necessary legislation. A law on the pattern of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Delhi is actively under consideration of the political executive. It will give necessary powers to our Committee and we will be in a position to deliver justice in a better way”, Justice Hussain added.

The head of the empowered Committee, that has Commissioner-Secretary School Education as Member-Secretary besides a chartered accountant and a representative from the J&K Board of School Education as Members, said that all the private educational institutes recognised by the Government and operating in Jammu and Kashmir, including those teaching curriculum of Central Board School Education, were bound to operate their fee structures with necessary approval of the Committee.

 “But unfortunately out of 6,000 schools, just 300-odd have submitted their record and sought our approval. We have taken up this issue with High Court as well as the Government and emphasised that there was no fun of having such a Committee if the fee structure of all the private schools was not to be regulated. On a positive note, some changes have been made and others are in the offing”, Justice Hussain said.

The Chairman revealed that, in recent past, Government had made it mandatory for all the private educational institutes to get their registration/recognition revised and revalidated after every one or two years.

“We have made it clear to the Government that two different committees, comprising officers of the rank of Joint Director of Education and other officials, should be constituted for this purpose in Kashmir and Jammu divisions. These should essentially operate under the control of our Committee. We will ensure that registration/recognised is renewed strictly in accordance to the guidelines and without any extraneous influence or intervention”, Justice Hussain asserted.

Asked why the issue of charging the fee for the turmoil period had been lying in limbo for long, Justice Hussain said that Commissioner-Secretary Education, Directors of School Education in Kashmir and Jammu besides BOSE authorities had got entangled with the examinations of Class 10 and 12, besides resuming operation of the closed down schools in border areas of Jammu and Durbar Move for about a month. “We are hopeful that the Government will either take a decision or refer this issue to our Committee. We will examine it in view of arguments from both, the parents as well as the school owners, and take a judicious decision”, Justice Hussain said.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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