Cabinet decision on the fate of 33 AIP schools in Malabar region

The Cabinet decision on the fate of 33 schools set up in Malabar under the Central government’s Area Intensive Programme (AIP) has turned out to be a tightrope walk for the United Democratic Front (UDF), as it has failed to address the main issue of whether the schools should be upgraded to aided institutions.

The decision further reflects the political vulnerability of the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), as both the parties have been cautious in pushing the issue beyond a point considering the controversy that overrode the decision- making process and the communal colour it acquired.

While taking the decision, the Cabinet did not go the whole hog to either convert them into aided institutions or give aided status, but confined it to payment of salary of teachers, that too without the widely expected retrospective clause. There is a section which strongly feels that the decision virtually amounts to making the 33 schools aided institutions. Another section is of the opinion that it would lead to further confusion and political problems for the IUML and the UDF.

It is pointed out that the Cabinet decision does not address issues related to other service conditions such as pension, which would be available to the teaching and non-teaching staff only if the schools are converted into aided institutions. The question that who would make future appointments has also been left unanswered. Most of the teachers working in these schools have been appointed without following any norms as laid down by the Kerala Education Rules and the legality of salary payment to the teachers appointed without any norms is an issue that might find its way to courts, it is pointed out.

Political headache

The 33 AIP schools have been giving quite a few political headaches to the Congress and the IUML, though for different reasons. The Finance Department, headed by K.M. Mani, had strongly opposed converting the schools into aided institutions or giving them aided status owing to the huge financial burden it would impose on the State government. But he made it clear that he had no issues if the Cabinet took the appropriate decision. The UDF discussed the issue twice during the last few months, but could not bring any more clarity to the issue.

As far as the IUML is concerned, getting recognition for these schools as aided minority institutions is very important because the party has been projecting itself as the vanguard of various Muslim sections and organisations in Malabar. Besides, the IUML leadership does not want the hawks in the party to create problems over its failure to secure its objectives. The Congress party, despite its distinct pro-minority tilt, does not want to be seen openly supporting the proposal to make these schools aided institutions because of the strong feeling that it would lead to further alienation of the majority community. Considering the pitfalls in decision-making, the UDF leadership decided to settle for salary payments to the teaching and non-teaching staff, hoping to take a final decision on providing full recognition when the political situation becomes better, sources said.