By Vijay Sanghvi
Nearly 300 seats in nursery divisions of 12 reputed schools of the Capital, that were reserved for admission to children of Economically Weaker Sections were cornered by wealthy families for their wards through fake certificates and with assistance of a gang. It is surprising that even wealthy need to resort to such corrupt practices to get their children admitted in reputed schools. The heinous crime caused revulsions and demand was raised demand for actions against the perpetrators of fraud. However, no one cared to point to the root cause of the fraud.
The Education Department had changed the rules for admissions in all schools of the capital. It has created hindrances for all seeking admissions to reputed schools, especially after the seats were reduced by 25 percent last year following the Court decree. About 25 percent seats are reserved for children of economically weaker sections so that children from poor families also have benefits of quality education. It was for a noble social cause of adopting the Reservation policy even at the primary school stage as in the case of admissions to higher technical education courses.
The Education Department of Delhi tightened the system of admission further by restricting the distances between the school and residences of admission seekers to only eight km. It reduced the advantage of alumni and sibling factor and made admissions to reputed schools even more difficult. Many suspected that since the residence of the officials fall within the prescribed limits, the norm was introduced to ease burden of admission to their children by making it difficult for others. The High Court had to intervene to correct aberrations introduced by the prescriptions by the Delhi Education Department.
Two years of experience, after the reservation policy came started being implemented tells a different story of slowdown in teaching standards to keep the children admitted under reservation to catch up with others. However the social separation was visible even in nursery class where teaching was not involved. The apparels and food material in the lunch box of children from the socially weaker class gave clear indication of their separation from the general class. Parents of poor children were not burdened with heavy fee expenses but had certainly to bear heavy expenditure when their children were invited by their school friends from higher social classes as children were obliged to carry gifts of value commensurate with the class of their friend.
The reservation reduced the availability of seats for families of better classes, but social pressures forced them to adopt any means other than pleas to school management bodies and their faculty for admission to their wards. The Education Department dispatched observers to be present at the time of admissions. It created a scope for a racket and underhand methods to overcome the hurdles created by the reservation policy and stricter but manipulative norms imposed by the authorities.
It provided scope for touts to take over to obtain fake certificates for anyone willing. They bribed powers be inside the district administration with a sum between Rs two to four thousand to obtain a certificate, for anyone and without verification, of income below Rs. One lakh annually to enable the person named in the certificate to obtain admission under the reserved quota. The school management and its faculty preferred not to probe deeper to verify certificates as it also helped them two ways, one to obtain fat sums as donations and also maintain standards of education in if socially and economically backwards did not manage to step in under the reservation policy but their seats are bagged by wealthy and desirable class families. Every factor involved desired to overcome hurdles caused by the new policy for admissions. The prohibitory policy was bound to create enough space for corruption and misuse.
No thought will now be given to the reality that in any and every system when violation of law is made cheaper to compliance of law, it begins to rot. Corrective measures are to turn it around. Instead, emphasis is on punitive actions against violators and all those derive undue advantages. 300 families have come under the scanner of probe by the crime branch. Future of children admitted with dubious means adopted by their parents remains uncertain.
But no one calls for review of pernicious reservations that do not provide any advantage to children coming from socially and economically backwards as they are forced to compete with children coming from better-off families and thus put them to disadvantage. The solution is perhaps in a separate arrangement for better coaching to improve their standards. But it a hazardous route no one will be willing to adopt. No one will tell parents of socially and economically backward class people that their child is condemned to remain backward forever as they would be unable to provide education that comes from families and the environment around. Child is not learning in school alone but also in his social environment also teaches him to develop his/her intelligence.
Politicians find is much easier to throw crumbs at poor to garner their votes. The entire exercise of power game is now based on gaining votes by throwing crumbs without a review of some policies that have led to distortions. Reservations in government jobs and educational institutions have prevailed for six decades with only a few families gaining advantages over and over again. A family of a former central minister had got the advantage of reservation 17 times for his family. No party calls for a better system to replace the reservations so that the deprived classes get advantages on a massive scale instead of tinkering with their future. Every party will not be willing to ignite the powder keg by calling for a review lest it loses the voting base among the deprived classes. Rich also have an advantage in continuation of the policy as their money can manipulate the system.
The tragedy is schools are denied right to select talents, but colleges are allowed to exercise their right of choice by cut-offs for admission. Schools shape intelligence of a child and colleges get the shaped material, and yet they get right. But no authority is willing to look at this paradox.