Edit/Op-Ed

HAD THESE CHILDREN BEEN OF RICH WOULD THE COURT HAVE TAKEN SO LONG?

By Sandeep Pandey

On 6 April, 2015, the Basic Shiksha Adhikari of Lucknow ordered admission of 31 children to Indira Nagar branch of City Montessori School under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which provides for admission to disadvantaged groups consisting of SC/ST, OBC, physically challenged, HIV affected parents, etc. and weaker sections comprising of families with incomes of less than Rs. one lakh per year. 23 of the 31 children belonged to Valmiki community and 8 to Muslims, of whom 6 are from OBC category.

The school’s founder manager Jagdish Gandhi filed a petition in the High Court claiming that there was no space in his school and he also raised the issue that when there were other government and private schools closer to children’s homes why were the admissions ordered in CMS. The court ordered the BSA to visit the school premises and find out if there is space in the school. The BSA filed his report on 17 July, 2015 that there were enough empty rooms in the school. Then Jagdish Gandhi raised the issue that admissions under RTE Act can be ordered only in a neighbourhood school and the definition of neighbourhood according to rules framed by UP government in connection with this Act was 1 km whereas in a later government order the definition of neighbourhood was changed to be the Ward. The court ruled that since rules are above the GO the definition of neighbourhood should be taken as 1 km and further ordered the BSA to go and measure the distance of CMS branch from children’s homes.

The BSA’s measuring exercise established that 14 children from among 31 were living within a km of the school. Although there was a mistake in counting and the HC ordered admission of 13 children on 6 August giving a week’s time to Jagdish Gandhi. Jagdish Gandhi, who had by now started taking the services of Delhi based senior lawyer and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, decided to go for special appeal against the order which was rejected on 10 September. The BSA meanwhile filed a contempt of Court case against Jagdish Gandhi but for some inexplicable reason the Court gave more than a month’s time to Jagdish Gandhi to show cause why he is not complying with HC order.

Meanwhile the academic session is fast progressing. There is no stay on the admission of children to CMS. Why doesn’t the Court first get the chidren admitted and then ask Jagdish Gandhi to contest the case? Would the Court have taken such a lackadaisical attitude to let the children remain unadmitted for 3-4 months since the academic session began if the children were of the rich? The parents would have gone to the Court by now. The administration-government would have been more serious in implementing the court order.

Under RTE Act schools have to admit upto 25% children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections. But from Jagdish Gandhi’s example it is clear that expensive private schools don’t want to admit children from deprived socio-economic backgrounds. Jagdish Gandhi is violating the law and court order and the administration-government seem to be ineffective sending a message that Jagdish Gandhi is above law and court.

He seems to be able to manipulate the administration, government and the court. What is his strength except for the unlimited amount of money which he is spending to his heart’s content? To bring Shanti Bhushan from Delhi on every court date itself would be costing him tens of lakhs of rupees every time. Jagdish Gandhi claims to have risen from poverty. Where has he got all the money from? If it is from the fees that he collects from children then it implies that he is charging much more than he should. Otherwise if he has another source of income then it should be investigated.

The maps of most buildings belonging to CMS have been approved in violation of rules by Lucknow Development Authority. The land use has either not been changed or changed illegally. The seating arrangement is so congested that in case of a natural calamity it would be difficult for children to come out of the illegally constructed multistoreyed buildings. Similarly the Fire Department has not given NOC to most CMS buildings. The school doesn’t have its own playgrounds and uses public parks for this purpose.

It is surprising that school has got recognition on this basis. CMS uses public roads for parking. Jagdish Gandhi can openly violate all rules and laws because he gives concession in fees to children of IAS, IPS officers, MLAs, MPs, advocates and judges and most importantly journalists. One officer used to get concession in fees for his child when he was a tehsildar in LDA. As soon as he was transferred to general administration Jagdish Gandhi refused to recognise him and stopped the concession in fees to his child.

Jagdish Gandhi by spending huge amount of money on international programmes has made a name for himself abroad. He has also been able to infiltrate the United Nations. But now it is time people should know his reality. There used to be another conman in Lucknow Subrata Roy who had built an empire on dubious activities. His game got over one day and he landed in jail. Now it is Jagdish Gandhi’s turn.

The government should take over CMS and implement RTE Act properly. There is no hope from Jagdish Gandhi. The man who delivers spiritual semons is anti-poor has become obvious now. He has put in his all to oppose the admission of poor children to his school. He should be arrested and tried for violation of national law and court’s order.

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