Aarti Dhar

States’ concern over several provisions

Bill will have huge financial implications for States

They see it as an encroachment upon their rights

NEW DELHI: The Centre has set up a committee to re-draft the Right to Education Bill, 2005 by addressing the issues raised by the States and other stakeholders and introduce it in the budget session of Parliament. The Bill guarantees free and compulsory education to every child in the 6-14 age group.

The eight-member committee, chaired by A.K. Rath, Union Secretary (School Education), held its first meeting here on Saturday. The committee comprises officials of the Union Human Resource Development Ministry and academicians.

This comes a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that the Bill would be introduced soon in Parliament, describing it as the “surest way of rapid inclusive growth.”

The committee has been mandated to revise the draft of the Bill, prepared by the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE) committee, based on the comments received from the States, and feedback from stakeholders, civil society and the media.

The major opposition to the Bill is due to the huge financial implications for the States — education being a subject on the Concurrent list. Concerns have also been raised over several provisions in the draft Bill, one of them being ensuring availability of a neighbourhood school to every child within three years of commencement of the Act.

In case of non-availability of a neighbourhood school, the State would have to provide free transportation to the child to the nearest school or free residential school facilities. The States must also provide special programmes in a neighbourhood school for non-enrolled children in the age group 9-14. The responsibility of enrolling children as they reach the age of six has been put on the parents/guardians, failing which they have to do compulsory community service.

Seeing the proposed legislation as an encroachment on their rights, the States are also opposing the National Commission for Elementary Education, as envisaged in the Act that would be a regulatory mechanism.

The Centre is also empowered to develop a national curriculum framework, develop standards for training and qualification of teachers for elementary education.

There is also a provision of reserving 25 per cent seats in schools for weaker sections, except in some category of schools. The School Management Committees will monitor the working of the school, plan and facilitate its development and manage the assets.