The Delhi government’s proposal to amend a provision of the Delhi School Education (DSE) Act, 1973, and the enactment of the Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015, may create trouble for the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Agitated private school teachers and Right to Education (RTE) activists are planning to battle the change through massive protests.
The DSE (Amendment) Bill, 2015, tabled in the Assembly by Human Resources Development Minister Manish Sisodia on 20 November proposes to delete Section 10 (1) of the Act, which guarantees that the employees of recognised private schools get salaries and other benefits equal to their counterparts at government schools.
Educationists and RTE raise serious concerns.
“The proposed amendment completely takes away the right to pay parity of all the employees of recognised private schools guaranteed by Section 10(1) of the DSE Act, 1973, which mandates that pay and other benefits of the employees of a recognised private school shall not be less than those paid to their counterparts working in government schools.
“On the basis of this provision of the law, all employees of recognised private schools are legally entitled to claim benefits under the Central Pay Commission revised from time to time. If this proposed amendment is passed, no employee would be entitled to claim benefits of pay and emoluments under the Seventh Pay Commission that will come into force with effect from 1 January 2016,” advocate Ashok Agarwal, who is also the president of All-India Parents Association, told Firstpost.
The 42-year-old provision, he said, that was achieved after a long struggle has been taken away by the AAP government in one stroke through the proposed amendment bill. “The people of Delhi voted (Chief Minister) Arvind Kejriwal’s party to power for protection of the workers’ rights and not to snatch them, and that too in the manner it is being done. Even the previous Congress and BJP governments in the state did not ever think of or attempt to take away such a valuable right of equal pay and dignified livelihood,” he said alleging that “this apparently has been done at the behest of the private school managements lobby”.
Reminded that the government argues that it has done so because it has “no intention of infringing on the autonomy of private schools,” Agarwal reacted strongly saying that “You (the government) are state, not a private body. You have a duty to check commercialisation and exploitation”.
“Handsome salary is directly linked to quality education. You are defeating the very objection for which you have been established,” he said.
But what are the consequences of dropping Section 10(1) of the DSE Act, 1973?
“A teacher is not a workman either under the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 or the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Therefore, there is no protection of their service. They cannot even claim minimum wage as a matter of right. Hence, once the amendment bill is passed in the assembly, their status would be reduced to a domestic servant because there is every possibility of reduction of their salaries on some excuse and court may not be of any help,” he explained.
Shantha Sinha, member of India Campaign for Education, a national forum that is opposing the amendments proposed by the Delhi government, said, “The proposed amendment bill will adversely impact the dignity of teachers. They are as qualified as other professionals such as doctors, engineers and lawyers.”
Warning the government that it will have to face stiff resistance from the people of the city if it goes ahead with the proposed amendment, a teacher said on condition of anonymity, “Arvind Kejriwal has played a cruel fraud with thousands of innocent teachers and other staff of recognised private schools by snatching from them the right to pay parity with their counterparts in government schools.”
Saddened with the government’s move, another lay teacher said, “This is the only dignified profession for women. With the deletion of the section, our salary would be reduced. How will we manage all expenses?”