Parents claim they are forced to give donation at tehsildar’s office while applying for income certificates, and NGOs charge for help in filling forms

‘Nothing free in RTE admissions’

Parents claim they are forced to give donation at tehsildar’s office while applying for income certificates, and NGOs charge for help in filling forms

Though the Right to Education (RTE) quota was meant to help out children from underprivileged families, parents are being fleeced left and right by organizations, including NGOs, that are supposed to help them out in the admissions process free of cost.

Harried parents have claimed that they are being charged while applying for documents like income certificates, which are mandatory for RTE admission. Moreover, they have alleged that even NGOs are charging for helping them fill RTE forms.

Tehsildar’s office charges

`100 as donation: Parent

One parent complained that when she visited the Andheri tehsildar’s office to collect her income certificate, she was asked to pay Rs 100 towards ‘Sashastra Sena Dhwaj Nidhi’, which the office claimed is a donation towards the armed forces. Usually, while applying for an income certificate, an individual has to pay just Rs 5 for the form.

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NGO charges `250, says it’s for ‘protests, legal battles’

Meanwhile, Anudanit Shiksha Bachchao Samiti, an NGO in Andheri, is allegedly charging parents Rs 250 each to help them fill up the RTE admission form online.

An aggrieved parent who did not wish to be named, said, “I am seven months pregnant. I rushed to the help centre to fill the form and then to the verification centre in another area to get my documents cleared. I have been running around for the past two months. I had to pay the Talathi office in Santacruz Rs 1,000 to get my income certificate documents. Yet they were wrong. Then I had to pay another Rs 800 to an NGO in Andheri named Samiti to make fresh documents.”

Another parent said, “When I submitted my documents to get the income certificate, I was given a pink receipt and asked to pay Rs 100 as donation. They took it from all the parents.”

K Narayan, secretary of the Anudanit Shiksha Bachchao Samiti, defended the NGO by saying, “We charge only the parents who can afford to pay Rs 250. The amount is to be used in protests and legal battles by parents against the education department for not providing admission under this RTE quota.”

Help centres receive

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just 4-5 parents a day

While the primary education department has opened up help centres for parents to fill up the admission forms online free of cost, most are unaware of their locations. Help centres are receiving hardly 4 to 5 parents per day coming in them to fill up applications. Avisha Kulkarni, director of the Desh Seva Samiti, another NGO, said, “The reason parents are approaching NGOs is because they are not aware about the location of help centres. Another reason is that sometimes, the scanner does not work in help centres. Parents have complained to me that in some areas, they are being approached by touts who are demanding Rs 25,000 to confirm admissions for their child. Some cyber cafes are also filling the forms online for parents for Rs 1,000.”

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No one’s forcing parents to pay donation: Collector

The tehsildar remained unavailable for comment. Shekhar Channe, collector of western suburbs, said, “I don’t think anybody would be forced to give that donation. That donation is voluntary. Parents can choose to not pay. It is meant for the armed forces.”

A BMC official said, “Parents should go to help centres where they can get the forms filled free of cost. Why are they approaching NGOs that are charging them?”

Documents needed

Income certificateIssued by revenue officer not below rank of tehsildar

Disability certificate

Civil surgeon/superintendent of government notified hospitals (Disability should be more than 40%)

Proof of residence

Any one of the following: Aadhar card, passport, election ID card

Caste certificate

Issued by Sub-divisional officer (revenue) or deputy collector

 

Parents don’t know help centre locations

Parents who wish to avail of admissions under the 25% quota for the poor under the Right To Education (RTE) Act have been exhausting themselves looking for help in filling admission forms. This, despite the existence of help centres.

Thanks to BMC’s education department which has opened help centres and verification centres at different locations to help parents fill the online RTE forms. Activists claim that lack of awareness about the existence of these centres, or where they are located are driving parents to NGOs for help.

According to the education department which is holding the RTE admission process, there are help centres, verification centres, as well as centres for filling up forms. Parents seeking admission under RTE quota can fill up the forms for their child free of cost at help centres or the form centres, and get the related documents checked at verification centres, confirming if they are eligible to apply for the quota.

However, parents have little clue as to how to approach the process, so they are turning to NGOs.

One such aggrieved parent (name withheld on request) said, “I am seven-months pregnant and have had to run from one place to another, filling the form and verifying the required documents. I have been facing this situation for the past two months. My documents of income certificate were also made wrong . Then I had to go to the NGO in Andheri for the correct document.”

According to NGOs, parents are approaching them because they are not aware of these help centres, even the ones appointed by the education department.

Director of Desh Seva Samiti, Avisha Kulkarni, said, “The reason parents are approaching NGOs to file online application are that they are not aware where these help centres are. Also, sometimes the scanner does not work in help centres or some other reason. Parents have complained to me that in some areas they are being approached by the touts who are demanding Rs25,000 to confirm admission for their child. Some cybercafes are also filling the forms online for parents and charging them Rs1,000.”

A civic education department official said, “The help and verification centres are not that far. They are hardly a few metres from each other.”

 

 

‘Even bureaucrat from reserved category can apply under RTE’

Parents who fall under the reserved category but can afford the fees are also applying under RTE quota, putting low income groups at a disadvantage.

According to a BMC official, the number of reserved category parents applying for admission for their kids under RTE quota is more than the number of applicants from the low income group.

Dinkar Temkar, deputy director, primary education, said, “It is in the Constitution that members of two reserved categories should not be asked to produce income certificates. The rest will have to show. If there is such a facility, even a bureaucrat from reserved category can apply for it.”

A parent from the reserved category said, “I have been paying around Rs 40,000 as annual fees for my child. I can save a huge amount.”

Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education, said, “If the reserved category group is not asked for income certificates, then even the families who can afford the fees will apply for admission, which may directly affect lower income groups.”

Ahmedabad’s lesson for city: RTE success story at IIM resource centre

While parents are bearing the brunt of poorly-implemented RTI admissions in the city, a group of motivated students at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad are successfully running a Right to Education Resource Centre (RTERC).

Started in 2013, the centre helps parents fill up forms and ensure that they have all the documents for admission. They also help the education department in the processing of applications. The centre creates awareness about the RTE quota, and is now reaching out to youths in different states to encourage them to start similar centres in their areas.

Ahmedabad was hardly able to admit approximately 30-40 children from economically weaker sections of society in the academic year 2013. The centre, initially started as an action research project by Ashish Ranjan and Sarvotham Shetty (IIM-A, 2014) under the guidance of Professor Ankur Sarin, is looking into the implementation processes of three different states – Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. After visiting education departments, the centre’s volunteers called a meeting of schools and parents, where they realised that there was no awareness of RTE admissions.

The centre’s volunteers also educate the parents about their rights. In 2014, they received approximately 1,800 applications, out of which the state declared that more than 600 applicants were eligible. This year, the centre has received around 5,000 applications. It has collaborated with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and ICDS to reach out to more than 400 aganwadis to spread awareness. This was a voluntary effort by more than 100 students across colleges like IIMA, MICA, CEPT, NIRMA in Ahmedabad.

Sarin, a professor of public policy and social entrepreneurship, said, “We have observed that most parents back out even after admission is confirmed in the school through this process. The reason behind this is that private schools discourage them. Our request to the government is that we want the government to bring more accountability in the system and involve every stakeholder to get this policy implemented.”

“Working on ground, we figured out some of the roadblocks and gaps in the implementation. I hope our research and campaign will be helpful to overcome such gaps in the upcoming years.” says Nishank Varshney, research associate at RTERC, looking after RTE implementation in Maharashtra.

“If a third party is making money by charging parents for filling RTE applications, then I think the government has failed to implement the policy,” said Sarin.

The centre also tries to involve young students in policy implementation. They had conducted a 5-day orientation program for people who were interested in knowing about different government policies. If you want to help start a RTE resource centre in your city, visit: www.rterc.in

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