People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 21

June 02,2002

The 93rd Constitution Amendment Is Anti-Poor


K K Theckedath


THE December 2, 2001 issue of People’s Democracy exposed the fraudulent nature of the 93rd constitutional amendment bill. Later the parliament adopted this bill and passed the 93rd amendment act on November 28, 2001.


The amendment stated as follows:


“The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6-14 years in such a manner as state may by law decide.”





On first sight this appears to be a great step forward from the provision of article 45 of our constitution, in which we have only a directive principle, with the expectation that it would become a law within ten years of the adoption of the constitution. But a careful look at the formulation will show that the amendment act strikes at the poorer sections of our society whose children are either totally denied education or deprived of good quality education.


Education is a continuum, and how a child performs in school from the age of 6-plus is fully dependent upon the inputs it gets before the age of 6. This includes not only pre-primary schooling, but also the nutrition the child and its mother gets right from the time of its conception. It is this basic right, which would have come to the child through article 45 partially, but is being taken away by the stipulated grouping of age from 6 to 14.


In the recently held meeting of the UNESCO preparatory committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the position paper submitted on March 25, 2002 reiterated the demands of the Dakar World Education Forum of the year 2000. The theme Education for Sustainability lists the six goals adopted in 2000. The first of these goals relates to pre-primary stage education and childcare. The six goals of Education for All (EFA), that are the priorities for sustainable development, are given in the box alongside.


It can easily be seen that the 93rd amendment act strikes at the first goal, namely of the early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, since the state has washed its hands off any responsibility for the age group 0-6 years.


This is only one of the negative features of the amendment.


The All India Secondary Teachers Federation (AISTF) took the initiative to raise these objections to the amendment through a petition to the prime minister on the subject of Free and Quality Education for All. The ATSTF has decided to approach the people of this country in a massive signature campaign. This initiative of the AISTF has been welcomed by the All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO), whose national executive committee meeting held in Gwalior on May 14 decided to join its forces in mobilising the people through such a signature campaign. The Federation of Central Universities Teachers Associations (FEDCUTA) also endorsed the decision. The teachers’ organisations at the secondary, higher secondary, college and university levels in the country are all committed to the demands listed in the box.





The petition to the prime minister notes that two-thirds of India’s (disadvantaged) children are deprived of nursery and pre-primary education; it is only the richer sections who are able to send their children to nursery and pre-primary schools. Thus the children of the poor who do enter primary schools, do so with an added disadvantage of having no educational background. The results of under-nourishment have also to be remembered.


The amendment act neglects the question of quality education for the poor. By leaving it to the states, the union is giving up its responsibility of defining and standardising quality education.


The other question is that of financial commitment from the government. The central government has declared its intention to spend Rs 98,000 crore on the EFA scheme in the next ten years. This is much below the actual requirement, and even below the recommendations made by the government-sponsored committees like the Tapas Mazumdar committee or S B Chavan committee. The Tapas Mazumdar committee has recommended a budgetary provision of Rs 1,37,000 crore for the next ten years, which works out to Rs 13,700 crore a year as against the stated provision of Rs 9,800 crore a year. In 1988 the S B Chavan committee had recommended Rs 40,000 crore every year. Thus, on all accounts, the present announcement is grossly inadequate.


The petition therefore makes the following five demands to the prime minister:


1) Take the age group 3-16 instead of 6-14 for provision of free and compulsory education. That will cover pre-primary to secondary education (standard ten).


2) Accept the Mazumdar committee recommendations of an incremental provision every year of 0.7 per cent of GDP from the year 2002-03 to reach 6.5 per cent of GDP in the 10th five-year plan.


3) Make quality education free and compulsory for all sections of people.


4) Provide, in the public sector, 0-03 education and development schemes (childcare) to the disadvantage groups.


5) Free and quality education should be imparted through public sector institutions and schools (government schools).




The Gwalior meeting of the AIFUCTO urged upon all teachers’ organisations to join in this campaign and collect one crore signatures from the people of India by December 2002. AISTF president Feroz Badshah and its leaders Indra Shekhar Mishra and Dhani Ramsingh Negi have urged upon all human rights activities and other NGOs also to join in this campaign.


When the people of this country fought for freedom, they also fought for an economic and social content. This included the demand of education for their children. This aspiration was enshrined in the constitution given to us by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and other members of the Constituent Assembly. By conducting this signature campaign, we shall be reminding the people of our country of this solemn responsibility of the government, from which the present rulers are trying to run away. This is truly a democratic and revolutionary task before all the teachers from the kinder garten level to the postgraduate level (KG to PG) and one must see to it that KG-to-PG unity will be forged for this purpose.