Note on DMP common school system imperatives for NCMP and 86th Amendment opportunities arising from recent / ongoing court matters about schools in Delhi, sent on 16.06.04 to authorities and others.

NCMP opportunities for Common School System

In the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP), the UPA “pledges to raise public spending in education to at least 6% of the GDP” and promises “a cess on all Central taxes to finance the commitment to universalise access to quality basic education” and a National Commission “to allocate resources and monitor programmes”. Reiterated in President’s address to Parliament, these commitments reinforce the Constitutional commitment made fundamental right by NDA’s 93rd Constitution Amendment Bill passed by Lok Sabha on 27.11.01 and Rajya Sabha on 14.05.02 to become 86th Constitution Amendment Act, 2002, that adds Article 21A, viz, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine”, while also modifying Article 45 to read “The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years”.

Civil society criticism of NDA’ draft education Bill in 2003 had led to discussions that threw up, besides two revisions and a call for withdrawal of the draft after change of government, wide ranging priorities to point to problems with a central law approach to Article 21A and clear consensus on two demands, viz, (i) resource commitments, and (ii) law based on historic commitment to Common School System (CSS) - recommended by Kothari Education Commission (1964-66) and Ramnamurthi Committee (1990), expressed by Parliament in resolutions on National Policy for Education in 1968, 1986 and 1992, and also called for, in the course of discussions on the draft Bill, by NDA Minister for HRD and Chairperson of NDA’s Task Force for Improvement in the System of Education.

UPA’s NCMP responds to these civil society concerns. It commits resources, including for pre-school initiatives and to support NGO efforts and the agreement has subsequently also been signed for World Bank assistance of $500 millions for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (on which an estimated $3.5 billion is to be spent in next three years). Significantly, UPA does not propose a central law under Article 21A, thereby leaving it to state governments and civil society to harness the support committed in ways best suited to local opportunities for CSS. In Delhi, unique opportunities arise from Delhi Master Plan (DMP) provisions for CSS and recent matters in courts. This note outlines these and then illustrates imperatives arising from the opportune convergence of CSS, DMP, court orders, 86th Amendment and NCMP.

Delhi Master Plan (DMP) provisions for Common School System

DMP provides for equal access neighbourhood schools and stipulates numbers of schools of various levels with population to be served (1 nursery school for 2500, 1 primary school for 5000, 1 secondary school for 7500, 1 integrated and 1 special school for 50000, ie, total of 77 schools for a community of 100000), maximum distance (0.3 km for nursery, 0.8 km for primary, 1.5 km for secondary school) and standards for enrolment, buildings, playgrounds, parking, etc. These provisions are designed to ensure adequate schools for all and mainly local population, a central principle of CSS, with support from lease conditions requiring schools to not refuse admission to local students and, in line with DMP provision for 25% housing for the poor in a community, 25% free seats.

DMP is part of development law, not education law, but provides both legal strength to CSS (land in Delhi, irrespective of who owns or allots it, cannot be used in contravention of DMP) and an alternative to the approach of trying to achieve it by accommodating the poor in ‘residual resource space’ without addressing ‘resource hogging’ duality in education, a propensity largely responsible for non-implementation of DMP CSS or, rather, its snowballing collapse starting with mis-allotments and misuse of school sites. On sites for small schools, bigger schools are set up, leading to excess that local demand cannot sustain. Citywide market tapping allows city-level fee charging. High fees are justified with facilities, even luxuries, not matching local demand and lease conditions for local enrolment are flouted, with the poor among local students worst affected by the exclusion. At the tail end of these serial violations are violations in schools (including government schools) for the excluded on ‘unplanned’ sites with enrolment in excess and space short of standards, which makes them incapable of absorbing investments for creating an environment conducive to quality learning or teaching, making for persistent problems of enrolment and retention that ‘incentives’ of freebies (that use up much of the education budget) cannot really solve.

Recent developments arising from court matters

Two sets of matters connected to DMP CSS are in court. One is a clutch of petitions seeking action against DMP violations and enforcement of the holistic DMP CSS, filed in December 2003 by residents of bastis, villages and flats engaging on this since 2000 (as summarized in Annexure). The other is by a group of lawyers, Social Jurist, inclusive of PIL in which High Court ordered on 20.01.04 enforcement of 25% free seats in four months, after which Delhi government issued on 27.04.04 an order for 20% free seats in private schools for below- poverty-line students, stipulating admission procedure at entry level and otherwise (through test in first week of April). On 01.05.04 it published a list of 144 schools violating free seats’ conditions. On 02.06.04 it was reported DDA had issued show-cause notices to 133 schools. On 09.06.04 Delhi government issued Public Notice advising parents about its order to schools. It had also issued on 13.05.04, in another Social Jurist matter (not based on DMP), Public Notice inviting schools to address the court on points of justifiability of admission tests, admission criteria for ‘neighbourhood school’ and rights of poor students / parents.

Six months after the court order about 25% free seats, not only has the condition not been enforced, it is becoming disconnected from the framework of which it is part, with the result that instead of building upon CSS consensus and flexibility provided by DMP, schools and communities are getting locked into adversarial positions. Some schools went as far as Supreme Court to make their disinclination to teach the poor clear and have been setting ‘pre-conditions’ like fee-hike and wanting best students from government schools to fill their quota for the poor. On behalf of the poor, there is equally unaccommodating insistence on quota filling, most recently in a call for a rally by former PM on 19.06.04, which (like government’s Public Notice of 09.06.04) is oddly timed since admissions to private schools mainly take place in the first quarter of the year. Amidst all this are lost questions on details – such as government’s order mentioning 20% and not 25%, talk of only 144 or 133 schools even as DMP provisions apply to over 10000 (@ 77 for community of 100000), no reference (despite recent ‘scams’) to mis-allotments, etc – as well as the serious question about risk of an arbitrary quota replacing historical commitment to CSS to end duality in school education.

Opportunities and imperatives

Extending compliance of court order for free seats to progressive implementation of CSS is not only an opportunity thrown up by convergence of developments relating to DMP CSS, 86th Amendment and NCMP but also an imperative of each one of these as well as of futility of attempts to enforce free seats in isolation on basis of land allotment condition alone.

The free seats condition is not connected to cheap land allotment (equal access neighbourhood schools are mandatory under DMP irrespective of price charged for sites) but to DMP local enrollment objectives, also in view of Kothari Commission recommendation of, ultimately, tuition-free education for all in neighbourhood schools, to be achieved through a well planned long-term approach. Ad-hoc rule-making for arbitrary quotas alongside, say, legitimization via property tax reform of ‘commercial’ schools, etc, are in contravention of DMP and enforcing free seats in context of CSS is a clear imperative of DMP (box). Such rule-making, reclassification, etc, is also far removed from the 86th Amendment that requires the state to frame law to universalize education, not to legalize duality in it by modifying existing law intended for universalization and it is nothing short of abdicating responsibility arising from NCMP inasmuch as that, with NCMP not mentioning any intent of central law, timely frameworks to absorb imminent education investments in manner most consistent with goals of the 86th Amendment must emerge locally. Extending the enforcement of free seats in compliance of court orders to progressive implementation of CSS is, therefore, an urgent imperative of NCMP - certainly in Delhi and perhaps also for generating yardsticks for use of the proposed National Commission to allocate resources and monitor programs.

Extending enforcement of free seats to progressive implementation of CSS in Delhi

Basic premises

  • Enforcement of free seats condition of land allotment must further the objectives of the statutory land use provisions for CSS from which it flows
  • Exclusive dialogue between select schools and some authorities must give way to one involving all CSS parties, especially the aggrieved, viz, communities including, but not limited to, the poor
  • City-wide / school-centric attempts must give way to area level / community-based ones, for which MPD provides a schema with legal basis for progressive implementation of CSS.

Imperatives / boundaries of flexibility

  • The courts have made it clear that the free seats condition for land allotment cannot be violated. Likewise, land allotment conditions for local enrollment, type of school, etc, cannot be violated.
  • Land allotment conditions as well as other procedural regimes (eg, essentiality / upgradation permissions, taxation categorization, etc) must also conform to MPD and approved layout plans.
  • MPD provisions govern land use and are mandatory irrespective of who owns or allots the land and all (including government) schools must conform to MPD standards for school sites.
  • For the community (including, but not limited to, students and poor) MPD CSS benefits are entitlements, not open to modification or interpretation as favour by schools and/or authorities.
  • For the community it is irrelevant who is responsible for MPD CSS violations and if individual violations are penalized or condoned, as long as entitlements are restored at community level.
  • For public confidence in education providers authorities and schools can not be seen as being in any sort of ‘nexus’ about denial of CSS entitlements of the community.

Illustrative possibilities

  1. Legitimate flexibility is possible in matters currently seeing attempts to shirk legal obligations:
    • Instead of trying to simplistically ‘adjust’ the percentage of free seats to 20%, 15%, etc, flexibility could be worked out to ensure overall percentage / equivalent of 25% for the local community, with incentives and penalties for variations in individual cases.
    • Instead of ‘alternatives’ like separate classes for the poor after school hours at the whim of individual schools, options equivalent to 25% free seats could be formalized, especially in partnership with government schools, for progressive implementation of CSS.
    • Instead of fee hikes or government subsidies to ‘finance’ free seats, etc, differential fee for non-local and local enrollment could be considered in pursuit of statutory objectives of local enrollment underlying the CSS concept.
  2. Compliance of orders for free seats can be used to put in place mechanisms required by MPD / recommended by Kothari Commission for progressive implementation of CSS, such as for:
    • Area-based dialogue among all communities, schools and authorities for community-specific plans for compliance apropos free seats as well as for a plan for phased enforcement of CSS
    • Assessment of, besides free seats condition violations, connected MPD CSS violations with a view to rectifying their causes and for clarity in community-specific phased plans for CSS.
    • Partnerships for reducing differences among / ensuring necessary conditions in all CSS schools and also to explore possibilities for equivalents to 25% free seats in specific contexts.
    • Flexibility (within boundaries of area level MPD CSS imperatives) for protecting individuality of schools, which can also throw up innovations apropos free seats, besides for CSS.
    • Immediate commitments to (a) convergence of all school education interventions in a community in a common CSS plan, (b) time-bound implementation of local enrollment, and (c) starter initiatives for confidence building, eg, summer camps for poor students, etc.
    Excerpt from a note sent to authorities and others on 04.05.04

Annexure: DMP CSS engagements

In 2000 residents of flats, villages and bastis in Mehrauli-Mahipalpur area started engaging on DMP CSS. In 2001 basti residents commissioned a report on school facilities in the area with reference to DMP provisions, with suggestions for their implementation. This was sent to DDA, Delhi government and MCD in June 2001. A summary was sent, also to area schools and others, with the children’s invitation to a discussion at ‘samapan samaroh’ of the summer school they were running. No one from government or schools showed up, but others including press persons did and CMO called to say CM had appreciated the report summary. Subsequent correspondence, etc, is summarized here.

  • 19.07.01: DDA response F.9(4)2001/MP/515 to report saying sites in layout plan are as per DMP.
  • 26.07.01: CMO response CMP/PGC/2001/3749, forwarding to PS to education minister letters thanking CM for appreciating the report summary and requesting discussion with officials.
  • 04.08.01: Reply to DDA to reiterate that ground realities are at variance, with list of violations.
  • 20.09.01: Letter to Delhi urban development minister following his holding a ‘bhagidari function’ with flat residents’ associations, to request a meeting with other citizens groups on DMP issues.
  • 26.09.01: DDA reply F.9(4)2001-MP/698, saying letter of 04.08.01 had been forwarded for action.
  • 22.11.01: Note to CM to suggest bhagidari be embedded in DMP framework and include all in an area
  • 04.01.02: CMO reply D.O.No. CM/B’dari/Secy/2001-02/37 ‘appreciating’ suggestions
  • 09.05.02: Letter to CM, following her remarks on television about discussions with schools about freeships, to request her to ensure rights are not reduced to favour in that bhagidari dialogue.
  • 15.05.02: Letter to DUAC about approvals / studies unconnected to DMP (also letter of 22.09.02, etc)
  • 10.10.02: Response to s.11A Public Notice to object to illegal scheme threatening lately upgraded municipal school, with letters to CM and MCD Commissioner to request intervention
  • 21.11.02: Letter to CM to object to ‘agreement’ between government and schools on 5% free seats.
  • 23.04.03: Letter to CM from basti groups to request inclusion in the bhagidari scheme. 05.05.03: Letter to DDA, copy to CBI, following reports of DDA and Delhi government claiming they are not to monitor lease conditions, to say a school case in ‘DDA scam’ suggested monitoring is done.
  • 19.06.03: Letter to CMO to ask about logic of plans to pay DPS to run schools for the poor
  • 07.07.03: Response to notice by Standing Parliamentary Committee on Urban Development inviting public views on functioning of DDA, with account of engagements thus far.
  • 27.07.03: Letter to object to MCD-NGO proposals to partner with private schools for charity, advocated before authorities in ‘consultation’ at IHC (wrt MCD plans for NGO care of its schools)
  • 02.08.04: Response to DDA advertisements inviting comment on ‘master plan guidelines’
  • 10.09.03: High Court judgment in WP 2638/2003 upholding demolition notice for violations in GD Goenka School while accepting the school’s plea for relief till end of academic year
  • 15.09.03: Letter to DDA to ask about response to its Public Notice of 12.08.03 asking schools for affidavits about allotment conditions / 09.09.03 report that Delhi government would act against only 7.
  • 10.11.03: Letter to MoL&J (copy MoHRD, MoUD and Parliamentary Standing Committee) about possible conflict with Delhi Development Act (wrt to Social Jurist meeting of 01.11.03 on draft Bill)
  • 17.12.03: High Court admitted and issued notice in WP 8954-59/2003 (about DMP CSS, impleading DDA, MoUD, Delhi government, MCD and Delhi Police).
  • 19.12.03: Note on DMP minima suggestions for education Bill, sent to JS (HRD-EE), of GoI Task Force Chairperson, Social Jurist, NIEPA (wrt meeting of 15.12.03 on second draft), etc.
  • 20.01.04: High Court judgment in WP 3156/2002 (about 25% free seats)
  • 22.01.04: Letters to President, CJI and Standing Parliamentary Committee about growing disregard of planning law, with illustrative instances (including schools, etc) on which representations are pending. (The letter was forwarded by President’s Secretariat to Secretary MoUD for appropriate action).
  • 31.01.04: High Court judgment in WP 1362-71/2004 (school buses for students shifted from Pushta)
  • 03.02.04: Representation subsequent to Supreme Court dismissing with leave for representation WP 35/2004 for postponing Pushta evictions till after examinations, wrt High Court order of 10.09.03
  • 04.02.04: High Court order in WP 8954-59/2003 for reply or personal appearance of officials
  • 17.02.04: Letter to respondents to expedite reply in WP 8954-59/2003, wrt reports of ‘agreement’ with schools on 15% seats, ask about compliance of High Court order of 31.01.03 for children evicted from Pushta on 13.02.04, and seek postponement of further clearance in view of High Court order of 10.09.03 and also ‘policy’ to allow misuse of farmhouses against charge requiring equal policy offer.
  • 19.02.04: Open Letter from Holambi relocates to MCD, GNCTD, DDA and MoUD for clarification about options for free seats, buses as per court order, etc.
  • 25.02.04: WP 8954-59/2003 could not be heard for paucity of time, replies (other than Delhi government’s) filed did not answer the petition and sought leave to file additional affidavits, etc.
  • 01.03.04: Letters for school buses for children relocated from Pushta on 13.02.04 as per High Court order of 31.01.04 (wrt start of board examinations)
  • 03.03.04: Letter to MCD commissioner, copy to other respondents in WP 8954-59/2003 to object to proposal to classify schools into categories including ‘commercial’ for property tax purposes
  • 04.05.04: Note on DMP opportunities and imperatives for extending compliance of High Court order for free seats to progressive implementation of CSS, sent to respondents in WP 8954-59/2003, discussants of education Bill draft to whom note of 19.12.03 had been sent and two schools.
  • 07.05.04: Supreme Court judgment for industries, clearly upholding DMP provisions and processes.
  • 17.05.04: Letter to respondents in WP 8954-59/2003 and Social Jurist (counsel for petitioner) to request, wrt Delhi government’s Public Notice of 13.05.04 inviting interested schools to address High Court on points justifiability of holding admission tests, criteria for admission to ensure ‘Neighbourhood School’ and rights of children of poor and uneducated parents, that they bring to the attention of the court the facts that these points are covered by statutory DMP provisions for equal access neighbourhood schools and that enforcement of the same is subject of WP 8954-59/2003 being heard by another Division Bench of the court.
  • 11.06.04: Letter to Secretary MoUD, with copy to Dr AV Baliga Memorial Trust that accompanied Pushta children to meet the President to solicit his intervention for postponement of clearance till examinations, to request (wrt to the office of the President having been involved in some builders’ awards for DMP violating architectural projects), action on letter of 22.01.04 forwarded by President’s Secretariat and inquiry / assessment pending.
  • 13.06.04: Letter to former Prime Minister, Mr VP Singh, requesting reconsideration of the simplistic demand for 25% free seats, etc, made in his call for a rally on 19.06.04.
  • 16.06.04: Letter to DDA to ask about responses to 15-days show-cause notices reportedly issued by 02.06.04 and to notice of 12.08.03, about compliance of order of 10.09.03, etc, and to request responsible action on free seats in context of CSS opportunities rather than simplistic penal action (as done in case of closure of one hospital for compliance failure) that will not serve education goals, with copy to others in the foregoing list to request, besides specific interventions in some cases, comment on this note with offer to place the same on web with a view to public discussion.