Education activists feel that the Supreme Court verdict of Tuesday will deflate the RTE Act, which mandates 25% seats in all schools be given to socially and economically backward children.
"The Centre must scrap the quota now. Over 90% of the institutes in India are run by minority groups. That means only a handful of schools which don't have this tag will set aside 25% seats. This will not serve the purpose," said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education.
He also doubted the Centre's intention of including this quota. "The Supreme Court has termed the RTE quota as unconstitutional. That simply means even the central government doesn't know about the constitution and rights of minority institutions. This is doubtful. It seems they just played the trick for political mileage. Their intention was never to help the poor."
Expressing shock over the verdict, activist Avisha Kulkarni said, "Education is a fundamental right which shouldn't be violated by the rights of minority. Minority department, these days, grants the tag to anyone and everyone without following the norms. The practice will flourish now."
Amol Dhamdhere, trustee of Indian Education Society which runs many schools, said sarcastically, "If all minority schools get exemption, we will also try to fetch the tag."
Dhamdhere is not wrong. There was a surge in applications from across India for the minority tag after the Act came into effect. In Maharashtra, around 930 schools got minority status from January 2009 to June 4, 2012. The rush will be more from now.
A parent said, "Though any institution claiming to be minority needs to admit 51% minority students, most don't abide by these rules except some Muslim minority ones. Why should such schools be exempted?"
Minority institutes are, however, ecstatic. "RTE or no RTE, we already give more than 25% seats to the poor. Scrapping the quota will reduce our burden as it requires a lot of paperwork which we can't handle due to shortage of staff," said Fr Jude Fernandes, principal of St Stanislaus School.
'Will Rahul Gandhi and other Congressmen take back statements?'
Jayant Jain said Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders, who have been taking credit for the RTE Act throughout the elections for political mileage, must take back their statements now in the wake of SC decision. "Gandhi and other Congress leaders don't forget to mention the Act in their interviews and rallies. The SC decision makes all those statements invalid. They must retract them."