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No amendments to RTE Act: Ministry

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The government on Thursday said it did not propose any amendments to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act that would dilute the Act's provisions.

“There are some practical difficulties in the implementation of the Act that need to be addressed,” a senior official of the Human Resource Development Ministry said.

“We are working out a reasonable way to address these issues to take the social agenda forward without disbanding the existing structures,” the official added.

Screening system

On the possibility of the Centre reverting to the screening system, the Ministry cited the example of the Kendriya Vidyalayas that were opened to cater to the children of government officials who had transferable jobs.

“If the children of government officials do not get admissions in Kendriya Vidyalayas, then the whole purpose of opening these schools is defeated,” the official said. This was also the case with the Navodaya Schools and Model Schools or institutions meant for special sections of society.

The Ministry is looking at the option of 75 per cent of students being subjected to screening before admission, with 25 per cent from the disadvantaged sections being exempted.

The Ministry also clarified that madrassas had been clearly kept out of the purview of the Act. This follows reservations expressed by a section of Muslim clerics who fear that the law would eventually take away the autonomy of the madrassas. These institutions are not recognised by the government and are hence out of the ambit of the Act.

‘Retrograde step'

Amod Kanth, chairperson of the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, said any amendments to the Act would be a “retrograde step” and that the government should not go back on these provisions.

“The Act will eventually take us towards the common schooling system where all children should have access to all kinds of schools. By reverting to the criteria of screening as is being proposed in the amendments, we would be taking a step backwards,” Mr. Kanth told TheHindu, adding: “We should stick to the law as it is.”

“Delhi is perhaps the only State that has experienced the law and got the largest number of children into schools. On the issue of criteria of screening, we have also issued notices to schools,” he said.

“As it is the law does not cover children in difficult circumstances, and the schooling system in the country is limited; if we keep excluding schools, it will further shrink. There is a definite need to provide alternative schooling to children studying in the madrassas,” Mr. Kanth said.

He said the Delhi Child Rights panel had received 7,000 cases since the Act was implemented, of which 1,000 have been provided relief. Most of these were from the disadvantaged sections of society.

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