The North MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) has cleared a proposal to rent out vacant buildings of 14 schools to coaching and vocational training institutes to generate more revenue, say reports. The proposal to hand over buildings from the education department to remunerative project cell received clearance on May 30. The school buildings were lying vacant after the civic body closed down schools owing to lower enrolment of students. The school buildings facing e-auctions are situated in different zones of the North MCD — four schools in Narela zone, another seven in City-Sadar Paharganj and one each in Karol Bagh, Civil Lines and Keshav Puram zone. The annual licensing fee for these buildings may vary from Rs 11.5 lakh to Rs 2.6 crore.
However, the step has displeased educationists and activists alike. Educationist Anita Rampal argued that the students, even in primary sections, were being forced out of the public education system by failing them in contravention of the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Instead of giving them better teachers and environment, both MCD and the Delhi government, ensured that they remain out of the system, she said.
The accusations of Rampal are evident in the dwindling enrollment numbers in the North MCD schools over the years. Overall, 2,52,952 students have opted out of civic body schools in last seven years. A study by Praja Foundation suggests consistently low numbers in enrollments. MCD schools had 3,47,450 students in 2013-14, which came down to 3,09,724 students in 2016-17. The foundation estimates 2,34,745 students are studying in 2019-20 in the schools run by North MCD.
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Rampal added, “This [Move] is promoting privatisation and commercialisation. Instead of ensuring that children have a good and equitable learning environment, they are first segregating them, insisting on detaining them even in primary school and thus pushing them out. Now they avidly want to promote coaching by allowing them to use public spaces! Their policies are damaging public education. Delhi government has come out with the statements that it can takeover public schools in bad shape. why cannot it takeover these schools? It need to come out with a solution.”
Ashok Agarwal, a Right to Education activist, made an important point in his conversation with Newsclick. He said, “The move only reveals that the concerns of the administration have shifted from educating the children to generating more revenue. In the past twenty years, MCDs have closed down more than 300 schools. While some were converted into multi-level parking facilities, some were transformed into malls.
The saddest part of the story is that it is the children of the most marginalized sections of society who are at the receiving end and they have almost lost their voice. Are not they understanding that almost 8 to 10 lakh children are out of the schools and they actually need to double the infrastructure in order to accommodate them?”
Why Are East And North MCDs Ailing?
Renting out the buildings of 14 schools to generate revenue is not the first time when the financial crisis of civic bodies has come out. Recently, the distress popped up when doctors and teachers of civic bodies went on a strike to press for their demand of getting salaries, which were not released for two consecutive months. Experts trace the problem to multiple sources, including the consistent tussle between Aam Aadmi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party over allocation of money and trifurcation of the authority.
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The Municipal Corporation of Delhi was trifurcated into three parts — North, East and South MCD in 2012 by the then Congress government on the grounds of bringing in efficiency. Existing twelve zones were divided six zones in the North, four in the South and two in the East. While the division brought good news for South MCD, the crisis at East and North MCDs deepened further. Presently, both MCDs are reeling under debt of more than Rs 3,000 crore. Things got more complicated with the Fourth Finance Commission recommendations.
Fourth Delhi Finance Commission (for 2011-16), set up in 2009 to review sharing of taxes and finances between the Centre, Delhi and MCDs, recommended a higher share for the civic bodies in taxes collected by the state government. Contrary to 5.5 per cent of taxes by the third finance corporation, fourth finance commission increased it to 12.5 per cent. But Delhi government declined to implement the recommendations citing fund flow remaining stagnant at Rs 325 crore per year.
However, the government seems to have lowered its tone and agreed to pay as per the fifth finance commission. But the crisis remains unresolved over dispute on dues under the fourth finance commission. In an action-taken report, Delhi government in the assembly stated that this could not be implemented as the Centre refused to accept a part of its recommendations.
Summarily, the crisis may look like a web of administrative hassles but it is not. It is students like Anshu, student of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Sagarpur, who bear the brunt of the crisis in the form of lack of schools. “Owing to poor health, I have failed in Class IX. I want re-admission but they are not letting me in. They are saying all seats are full now. If my locality had a school, I would not have faced this problem,” he said.