The signing of the United Nations Millennium Declaration which inter alia bound 189 signatory nations to universalise primary education by the year 2015; enactment by Parliament of the 86th Amendment (2002) which inserted Article 21A into the Constitution making elementary (primary and upper primary) education a fundamental right on a par with the right to life and liberty; the apex court’s path-breaking verdicts in T.M.A.Pai Foundation vs. State of Karnataka (2002) and P.A. Inamdar vs. State of Maharashtra (2005); legislation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 making it mandatory for the State, i.e Central, state and local governments, to provide free and compulsory education to all children aged six-14 in a neighbourhood school, and the Supreme Court’s substantial endorsement of the provisions of the RTE Act by its majority judgement in Society for Unaided Schools of Rajasthan vs. Union of India delivered on April 12, are landmark events which haven’t received the attention and analysis they deserve. Certainly the fine thread connecting all these seemingly disparate milestones, hasn’t been made manifest to the public.
Moreover these landmark developments which have shaped — and continue to shape — the contours of India’s moribund education system, and particularly the role of private educators and educationists within it, have a history behind them. How and why has India’s education system, once the envy of the world, been reduced to a sorry state? Who’s to blame? What are the respective roles of government schools and colleges and privately promoted education institutions within the system? To what extent can the Central and state governments interfere with the fundamental right conferred upon linguistic and religious minorities by Article 30(1) of the Constitution, and extended to all citizens by an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court in T.M.A. Pai Foundation Case? In this month’s cover story an attempt has been made to provide insights, even if not definitive answers, to these and related questions which tend to be brushed under the carpet.
While writing the cover story against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s April 12 verdict in the Society for Unaided Schools of Rajasthan Case, I have drawn upon my previous experience as a practicing barrister of the Bombay high court, an avid student of the history of post-independence India, and as a business and education journalist. To what effect I’ve been able to balance this fortuitous combination of experience to write the cover story which argues that the Supreme Court’s wafer-thin majority verdict of April 12 will force open the gates of private schools for the entry of dreaded licence-permit-quota and inspector raj — which almost destroyed Indian industry in the period 1950-90 — into the hitherto insulated private school education sector, is for readers to judge. Certainly, I invested considerable time and effort in writing this unprecedented narrative, and would appreciate readers’ responses to it.
In the special report feature this month, assistant editor Rutaksha Rawat and managing editor Summiya Yasmeen joined forces to beam a searching spotlight to ascertain the root causes and effects of headlines-grabbing child abuse cases across the country. It offers a roadmap to transform the shockingly child-unfriendly society shaped by post-independence India’s unworthy heirs, into a child-centric nation.