Government curbing constitutional freedom of minority schools?

The government agencies are quietly tinkering with the education system in an effort to erode constitutional protections and freedoms to minority institutions, observers say.

Heads of more than 40 minority schools in New Delhi met last week (September 2) to underline the need to remain alert to attempts to erode constitutional freedoms and protections provided to minority schools
The Forum for Minority Schools in Delhi and Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), brought them together.
The meeting at the CBCI Centre “was a step towards creating a joint platform for exchange of ideas and concerns relating to minority education institutions,” says  Bishop Mascarenhas, who is also the conference’s spokesperson.
The meeting,  came as these institutions have gone to the court challenging orders of the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education regarding refund of fees. The minority schools also face statements and policy matters regulating admission and staff administration and other concerns. These moves affect the constitutional freedoms and protections provided to such institutions, it added.
Bishop Mascarenhas, in his opening remarks, clarified that the meeting an apolitical gathering to find ways and means to improve the minority educational institutions’ vigilance in their housekeeping and their watchfulness against attempts to prune and clip minority rights.

“We must have our consciences clear and really work for society but at the same time we must also assure that our minority rights are protected,” he added.
The forum chairperson, V K Williams, recounted the many positive contributions of Christian schools in nation building over the past 200 years.

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He highlighted how the previous draft of the National Education Policy of the federal Human Resources Development ministry was flawed in its concept and design. “It was highly retrograde and its implementation would have damaged the educational fabric of our nation,” he noted.
Father Joseph Manipadam, secretary of the CBCI Office of Education, shared some silent changes being introduced into education in different states, cautioning all present that what may appear to affect one kind of educational set up, would soon affect others. The Salesian priest cited the example of NEET for medical colleges, observing such control may happen to engineering colleges as well.
Romy Chacko, a leading lawyer, asked all schools to approach the High Court regarding the implementation of the Anil Dev interim reports. Many aspects of the accounting principles the committee has used have created confusion, requiring each school to seek individual review.
Apart from Christian schools, Sikh and Jain educational institutions also attended the meeting.
Bishop Mascarenhas indicated several larger consultations in future with many more schools participating to ensure the protection of the rights of minority institutions.
The meeting suggested setting up a Minority Board of Education such as central boards for secondary education.
“This meeting is another attempt of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference to engage civil society and likeminded citizens in facing the various challenges cropping up in the country,” a press release explained.

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[from media reports]

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