School fees hike: Panel nowhere in sight, parents vow to go on hunger strike

However, if any disputes arise into this situation, the PTA can approach the divisional fee regulation committee and later state-level committee if not satisfied.

With the fight between school managements and parent groups over fee hike refusing to die down and parents vowing to go on an indefinite hunger strike from April 4, the issue has once again brought into focus the pendency of formation of a divisional level fee revision committee which can rein in private schools.

According to the Fee Regulation Act, schools are allowed to hike up to 15 per cent of their fees once every two years, with approval of their parent-teacher association. However, if any disputes arise into this situation, the PTA can approach the divisional fee regulation committee and later state-level committee if not satisfied.

After a delay of at least a year-and-a half since the act came into existence, a state level fee revision committee was formed in July 2015. A couple of months later, advertisements were issued by the state education department for self-nomination of divisional committee members but since then there has been no movement.

“The first hurdle was to find a retired Bombay High Court judge for state level revision committee. Once that was done, names were called for divisional level committees which has to have a retired district level judge as one of its three members. The other two members have to be a retired senior education department official and a registered chartered accountant. I do not know why the delay is taking place as these decisions have to be taken at state government level but since there are many divisions, finding suitable members in each is itself a task,” said Purshottam Bhapkar.

He claimed that in the absence of a divisional fee revision committee, the hands of the education department officials are tied. “Earlier, we could still take some action against schools but now they can say that the Act is in place. Since we have no legal authority, we can only try to mediate and resolve matters,” he said.

Meanwhile, as the delays continue, parents call this a deliberate attempt to aid private schools being employed by the state education department. “It is very clear that the government has no intention to form such a committee because it’s been months since we have been listening to their fake assurances. Even when we approach the senior education department officials, they say they have no clue of the status of the committee.

On the one hand, the government is acting so casually about this serious matter which is concerning the lives of thousands of students and on the other hand, schools attach no value to the orders of the deputy director. Repeated orders are passed but schools don’t take it seriously because they know no action will be taken,” said Sandeep Chavan, member of forum for fairness in education.

Also, parents are not happy with the education officials blaming the act for non-action against schools. Meera Dilip, a member of the parents’ association POPSOM, said, “There are several GRs issued by the state government empowering the deputy director to take action. These GRs have not been scrapped until now and it means they still have the power to take action. More than lack of power, it is about lack of will. Also, if the state government knows that in absence of a committee, no action can be taken, then how long does it plan to take before forming a committee,” she asked.