The Right To Education is now justiciable in India with the coming into effect of the Right To Education Action on April 1, 2010. If the State does not do all that it must do as per the Act, within the stipulated timeframe, any citizen can take the State to court. The justiciability of the RTE Act will be tested sooner than later after March 2013. It will be interesting to see when, where and on what grounds the first such cases are filed and how the State responds to the cases.
A clear picture of the current status of implementation of the Right To Education Act as well as the timeframe for implementation of the various provisions of the RTE Act is now available thanks to a question raised in the Rajya Sabha by the MP, H.K. Dua.
Rajya sabha Question No. 568, Answered on November 25th, 2011
568 SHRI H.K. DUA: Will the Minister of HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT be pleased to state:-
(a) the progress on the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act providing for universal education up to 14 years of age, State-wise;
(b) the States that have not notified the rules for implementation of the law;
(c) the steps Government is going to take in this connection so that these States fall in the line with the rest of the country; and
(d) how long will it take for complete implementation of the Act?
MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT (DR. D. PURANDESWARI)
(a) The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 has come into force with effect from April 1, 2010. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) Framework of Implementation and norms for interventions have been revised to correspond with the provisions of the RTE Act. This includes interventions, inter alia for
- opening new primary and upper primary schools as per the neighbourhood norms notified by State Governments in the RTE Rules,
- support for residential schools for children in areas which are sparsely populated, or hilly or densely forested with difficult terrain, and for urban deprived homeless and street children in difficult circumstances,
- special training for admission of out-of-school children in age appropriate classes,
- additional teachers as per norms specified in the RTE Act,
- two sets of uniforms for all girls, and children belonging to SC/ST/BPL families,
- strengthening of academic support through block and cluster resource centres, schools, etc.
Since RTE Act came into force, 50,672 new schools, 4.98 lakh additional classrooms, 6.31 lakh teachers, etc have been sanctioned to States and UTs under SSA. The fund sharing pattern between the Central and State Governments has also been revised to a sharing ratio which is more favourable to States Governments.
(b) to (d) So far, 27 States have notified the State Rules under the RTE Act, including five Union Territories which have adopted the Central RTE Rules. These States are:
- Andhra Pradesh
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Himachal Pradesh
- Madhya Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
- Uttar Pradesh
- Daman and Diu
- Dadra and Nagar Haveli
- Andaman and Nicobar Island, and
The States of Karnataka, Gujarat, West Bengal, Goa, Delhi, Puducherry, Uttarakhand have not yet notified the RTE Rules, and these States have been reminded to expedite the notification of the State RTE Rules.
The RTE Act mandates the following timeframe for implementation of its provisions:
Establishment of neighbourhood schools 3 years (by 31st March, 2013) Provision of school infrastructure
- All weather school buildings
- Head Teacher-cum-Office room
- Toilets, drinking water
- Barrier free access
- Playground, fencing, boundary walls
3 years (by 31st March, 2013) Provision of teachers as per prescribed Pupil Teacher Ratio 3 years (by 31st March, 2013) Training of untrained teachers 5 years (by 31st March 2015) Quality interventions and other provisions With immediate effect
There are a whole host of issues that will crop up for the Government to address by March 31st, 2013.
- What will the State do if it has not been able to set up the necessary schools, and hire the necessary qualified teachers to provide an education to every single child in the country? In particular, in densely populated urban areas where there is very little land available for constructing new schools, how will the State construct new schools with playgrounds and buildings of the size specified in the RTE Act?
- What will the State do with all the private, unaided schools, that do not measure up to the standards set out in the RTE Act for buildings and playgrounds by March 2013? Will all such schools be de-recognised and forced to close down? How will the Government protect the interests of the parents who are currently sending their children to such private unaided schools?
- How will the State respond to those Government schools that are not able to measure up to the standards of the RTE Act by March 2013?
If things don't work out as envisaged, we will need a Plan B. We need to anticipate potential problems and begin thinking right now about possible ways of addressing them rather than starting to think about it 3 years from now when we may be mired in litigation, or stuck with lack of funding, structural issues in implementation and myriad other problems.
The Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, headed by Rajya Sabha MP, Oscar Fernandes, has invited suggestions on "Implementation of the Right To Education Act". Comments and suggestions may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 5, 2011.
Note: For a good overview of how Parliamentary Standing Committees work in India and the role they play, listen to this talk by Chaksu Roy of PRS Legislative Research at the recently held Takshashila Shala in Chennai.