People's Democracy

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


No. 16

April 27, 2008


On The Right To Education

Resolution Adopted at the XIX Congress on April 3, 2008

THIS XIX Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) urges the government to immediately enact the Right to Education Act in order to give legislative support to the 86th Constitutional Amendment, which established the right to education as a fundamental constitutional right. Commitment to such legislation was made by the UPA government in the CMP, and it is indeed unfortunate that such a basic requirement of any modern society – that is, the eradication of illiteracy and the establishment of free, universal and compulsory school education for 10 years for all children – is being neglected. The prime minister’s recent statement in support of the Right to Education must be translated into law and backed by adequate financial allocations.

Poverty and poor systems of public education have denied crores of children this basic human right. Although initiatives by the government through important programmes such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the mid-day meal scheme have made a significant improvement in enrolment ratios, drop-out rates are unacceptably high. According to NSSO data, the percentage of non-enrolled and drop-outs taken together is as high as 52 per cent between Classes 1 to 8. It is a matter of shame that many countries that won independence after India have gone far ahead and achieved complete literacy. The UNESCO has identified India as one among those that will fail in achieving the millennium development goal of eliminating illiteracy by 2020. The report states that “India is at the bottom of the heap” in this regard.

The Draft Model Bill 2006 circulated by the UPA government as a substitute for a central legislation is totally unsatisfactory and makes a mockery of the Constitutional Amendment. While it has provisions with which to punish parents, it grants complete immunity to the State from any responsibility, penalty or punishment in any case of default. It legitimises the commercialisation of education, does not help in the reduction of child labour and gives a free hand to the managements of private schools to exploit students and parents.

The XIX Congress asserts that the refusal to bring a central legislation for the right to education is linked to the wholly misplaced and erroneous commitment to cut subsidies in the name of a “resource crunch.” The fact is that the central government does not want to take the financial responsibility for such a measure. The move to reduce central government expenditure on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and increase the share of state government expenditure is part of this understanding, and will prove to be a big setback to the momentum of the programme. The central government must not only continue the pattern of funding to the extent of 75:25, but also extend funding for the mid-day meal scheme programme to at least the elementary school level.

According to the Economic Survey 2008, the expenditure on education is still only 2.8 per cent of the GDP, that is, far below the CMP commitment of 6 per cent. Indeed, 40 years after the Kothari Commission recommended that government should ensure at least 6 per cent of GDP for education, financial allocations remain grossly inadequate.

The XIX Congress strongly urges the government to fulfil an important CMP commitment by enacting a central legislation to ensure the right to education. The union government must take the primary responsibility in this regard and allocate adequate resources for the purpose.

The XIX Congress calls for a strong united movement of all sections of society for an Act to guarantee the right to school education for the country’s children and calls upon all its units to play a pioneering role in fighting illiteracy at the grass-root level.