On Saturday last, as the government was highlighting with much fanfare the achievements under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 in the past two years, the RTE Division of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) — entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the Act — was virtually winding up.
It all happened as the term of Kiran Bhatty, the consultant who established the division in 2010, ended on March 31 and five members of her team put in their papers along with her.
The division that had been created as a special panel within the NCPCR after it was mandated to monitor that implementation of this flagship programme that makes elementary education as a legal entitlement for the children in the age group of 6 to 14 years, now has just a retired Army officer and a young woman — both of whom were appointed two weeks ago and are yet to be given specific responsibilities.
The NCPCR has had its shares of controversies right from the beginning, be it for the choice of members or even the manner of selection (matter is pending in the court). Even now the Commission has just three members in addition to the chairperson.
While the Ministry of Women and Child Development is the parent Ministry of the NCPCR, the RTE division was being funded by the Ministry of Human Development Resource that piloted the RTE Act. Additionally, there are issues around defined roles and responsibilities and accountability. The appointments are made on contractual basis which does not give enough authority and resources have always been a constraint. The funds received by the Division for Monitoring were at the rate of Rs. 50 a school annually.
“Monitoring of the RTE Act is an important function given to the NCPCR and it has to be carried out well. There are larger systemic issues that need to be sorted out,” Ms. Bhatty told The Hindu when asked for a comment.
On the other hand, the NCPCR issued a statement to mark the completion of two years of monitoring of RTE implementation saying that taking to scale protocols of social audit was an important issue that would be the focussed on. The key challenges that would be addressed in the coming year would be ensuring all entitlements of children in accordance with the Act in terms of school standards, infrastructure, teacher recruitment and training in accordance with the law.
Universal coverage of pres-school children, harmonising Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 and the National Child Programme with RTE Act, total ban on corporal punishment, establishment of grievance redressal mechanism and accountability from the school to the State and the Central government were some other issues that would be given attention in the coming year, the statement added.
“The Commission appreciates the national campaign on Shiksha ka Haq Abhiyan launched by the HRD Ministry and hopes that it would create an atmosphere to meet the challenges,” Shantha Sinha, chairperson of the Commission said.
While the NCPCR said 2,850 complaints had been received from 28 States on issues relating to admission, corporal punishment, detention of children, discrimination, teachers' attendance, reservation for economically weaker sections in private schools, overcharging and inadequate infrastructure in the past two years, information received under Right to Information Act also suggested that from April 2011 to 2012, the commission received 1,761 complaints, of which only 100 were resolved, accounting for only 6 per cent.
Another fact revealed through RTI, filed by Umesh Kumar Gupta of ActionAid India, is that, only 21 summons were issued by NCPCR to government officers for violation of this Act.
Under the Act, this Commission in the only window where parents, teachers, children, social activists can lodge their complaints.