Glare on Minority Rights

 

Cover Image: “The kind of rights that have been given to minorities in the Constitution, still they feel cheated about it. They have the rights to run their institutes, religious institutions, but the majority does not have. Law is equal to all,” Satya Pal Singh said. (Courtesy: News 18) 

The Indian Express

New Delhi

14th April 2018

 

Union Minister Satya Pal Singh on Saturday said the minorities enjoyed many rights that the majority did not, and advocated that the way the Constitution had been interpreted in the past few decades needed a “revisit”.

Noting that all are equal before the law, the Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development (HRD) said, “In the last about two decades, the way the Constitution has been interpreted and the laws have been interpreted, it requires revisit. Let us revisit them.”

He was speaking on ‘Rule of law and role of B R Ambedkar in nation-building’ at an event at Delhi University commemorating the 127th birth anniversary of the Dalit icon and framer of the Constitution.

“The kind of rights that have been given to minorities in the Constitution, still they feel cheated about it. They have the rights to run their institutes, religious institutions, but the majority does not have. Law is equal to all,” he said. It has been close to 70 years since the Constitution was adopted, but “we are not able to internalise it,” he said.

“Rule of law means law is equal to everyone. However, a person stealing Rs 100 and another stealing Rs 100 crore get the same punishment. Does it give justice to the society? I say it does not. Therefore, there is a need to amend laws,” he said, adding that in the recent past rule of law had not been implemented and it resulted in a lot of discrimination. Law should spare none to ensure nation building, he added.

“You want to have a strong democratic country, where everyone gets educated. We have the law – Right to Education (Act), but in the last eight years are we able to implement it? We are not. Still millions don’t go to school because the law does not have teeth,” the minister said.

DU Vice Chancellor Yogesh K Tyagi, former VC Upendra Baxi, Indian Law Institute Director Manoj Sinha and Law Secretary Suresh Chandra were also present on the occasion.

 

Isaac GomesIsaac Gomes, elaborates on the above report.

 

The above report should make the Indian Church Hierarchy and the various minority institutions sit up and see the writing on the wall.

For they think just because they have got Minority Institution Certificates, they have a permanent right to do as they please and this right is in perpetuity, not subject to review. At least our Christian Minority institutions are not doing justice to their Minority Institution tag as the percentage of Christian students in their institutions is much below the norm set by the Supreme Court.  The abysmal percentage of Christian students in these institutions is contrary to the mission and vision of the Founding Fathers/Mothers who sought the Minority Institution Certification on the premises that they would use this privilege for the uplift of the students of their communities first, and then those of other communities.  Barring a few states, this low percentage of Christian students in Church-run institutes is a common feature.  At least in Kolkata, the ratio is 1:9  which means ten percent (maximum) Christian students and ninety percent students from other faiths/communities who can meet the financial demands of these institutes. Though most of these Christian Missionary institutes have huge Reserve Funds, built over decades, they do not dip their finger into it for the benefit of students who cannot afford huge fees. Many Christian students have to run from pillar to post to get fee concessions.  Several church-run schools grant fee concessions to students who are financially weak, based mainly on academic perfomance.  For example if a student gets 70% marks, he/she is granted 70% fee concession.  But there is a catch. Some schools play a game in the name of concession. They split up the fee into tuition fee, electricity, building maintenance, computer, etc.  For example, if the total fee is Rs 3500/- per month, tuition fee is shown as Rs 1,000/- and the rest 2500/- broken into other expense heads.  Students are given fee concessions only on tuition fees.  So a poor child, still has to pay Rs 2,500 plus amount as school fees.  As a result of this, many Christian students drop out due to financial constraints or to avoid humiliation in the hands of the school/college authorities. By the time students go to Class VIII or IX, the percentage of Christian students becomes much less.  This can be easily found out from the break-up of students sent up for Board Examinations.  But no Christian Missionary school / college reveals this figure, even if a member of the laity were to ask for  it. For the number will let the cat out of the bag and prove conclusively that our Missionary institutions are not serving those whom they are bound by their vows to serve. Because of this, there have been several demands from the ruling dispensation, that our Church-run Institutions should lose their Minority Institution Certification as more than ninety percent of the student force in these institutions are from other communities/ faith.  The implication is if these Church-run institutions are running on commercial basis instead of a welfare basis, let them be stripped of their Minority Institute tag and be assessed and taxed as commercial enterprises.  After all, for most, Education is a big business now-a-days.

Another bane of Church-run institutes is that they have claimed they do not come under the purview of Right to Education (RTE) Act by virtue of being Minority Institutes having their own rules & regulations.  In spite of their tall claim that they are all for promotion of Education (25% stake on national level), they claim they do not come under the RTE Act. This is downright ridiculous!

As reported in the Times of India, Jaipur, 22 January 2018, a day after Gujarat government issued diktat to government schools to recite Saraswati vandana on Basant Panchmi falling on January 24, Rajasthan government took a step ahead and directed both government and private schools to not only chant prayers but to install an idol of goddess Saraswati and convene prayers with rituals. The order was issued this week by the director secondary education, government of Rajasthan.  The order says that "Every schools, private and government, has to celebrate the festival and its rituals. It is also noted that every school has to encourage and engage its students in the rituals." The order clearly defines that every student has to inform about the relevance of the day by first stating the narrative of goddess Saraswati. The order also said that it is mandatory for every school to deliver a talk on the goddess Saraswati. Rajasthan has 1.20 lakh schools including 85,000 government and 35,000 private schools. This is for the first time such a diktat was issued for private schools as well. TOI spoke to several private schools who, requesting anonymity, have condemned the government move. They termed it as 'arbitrary move' against the secular ideals of the country. "It should be voluntary rather than the government introducing any directive in this regard," said a missionary school principal pleading anonymity. The order didn't go well with the schools run by Arya Samaj, Muslim community and Christian Missionary schools. However, none of the representatives of these communities come on the record to oppose the move. In Hindu religion, goddess Sarawati is considered the god of education.  This shows, if our Minority Institutes continue having an adverse student ratio, they will have to cater to majority students' demands.  In some Church-run schools in Kolkata, students from one particular community, outnumber all, including Christians.  They look for every opportunity to call the shots, including special holidays during their festivals, thus disrupting school calender of events.

Most of these institutions do not pay their teachers and staff, the latest Pay Commission pay-scale.  In the name of self-management/regulation and to avoid government scrutiny, they do not take Dearness Allowance (DA) for their teachers.  By refusing to avail of state government financial grant (DA) for apparent fear of losing management control, they hike up their fees arbitrarily and make the parents pay through their nose, instead of making use of their Reserve Funds. They also do not show their accounts to justify fee hike. Recently there was agitation by parents in at least two Church-run schools in Kolkata – Assembly of God Church School on Park Street and last week, Our Lady of Providence School for Girls, on Lower Circular Road, Kolkata.  The first-named school had raised its fees by thirty-five percent.  Naturally parents would lose their calm as the normal annual salary hike they receive is not even ten percent.  One can imagine the plight of  parents who have more than one child. Still these Christian Minority Institutes trumpet that the government cannot interfere in their matters or management as they have Minority Institution Certificate.  They must be living in a fools paradise.

The Gujarat High Court on 27 December 2017 upheld the Gujarat Self-Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act, 2017 that was passed by the state legislative assembly in March and ruled that private schools cannot engage in profiteering. A division bench comprising chief justice R. Subhash Reddy and justice V.M. Pancholi had in August reserved its order on a number of petitions filed by hundreds of self-financed schools that challenged the state government’s move to regulate fees through the Act. The division bench rejected all petitions challenging the state Act and said that it was within the state government’s powers to regulate fee structure for self-financed schools. It ordered the implementation of the Act from 2018. The Act prescribes an upper limit on annual fees of Rs15,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 27,000 on primary, middle and high school education respectively.

The High Court bench rejected the contention of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE)-affiliated schools that the state government cannot regulate them. The court also rejected similar petitions by education institutions managed by the minorities (both religious and linguistic) that sought exemption from the state law. As this is a High Court judgment, it may be replicated in case of other states, and West Bengal, where there more than are 500 ICSE and CBSE schools, is no exception.

So our Minority Institutions should be wary of the fact how much justification they have to carry on claiming Minority Institution Status.  Statistics show that these institutions are producing hardly any Christian leaders or captains of industry.  Most of the benefits are being reaped by members of people of other faith, who are hitting us back when they are  in seats of power. 

It is not surprising therefore, that on 13th April, at the opening of a historic three-day national seminar (photo above courtesy Mattersindia.com) on “Christian Leadership for a Culture of Peace in the Multi-religious Context of India” in New Delhi, Acharya Sachidananda Bharathi regretted  “The Church in India has been on a picnic mode so far. We celebrate festivals. We have big institutions but Christ and cross have no place in the Church.”

I am sure Jesus, especially in this Easter Season, must have asked the heads of Church-run institutes the two word question which he asked Peter: "Quo Vadis?"  I am sure they must  have pretended to be either hard of hearing or do not have any  pricks of conscience of not shepherding their flock as Jesus advised Peter.

 

 

 

 

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