The right to education is a fundamental right of every child in India. However, there are millions of children whose rights are neglected, denied and deprived. According to the Education Survey, only 50 per cent children of the age of six to 14 have access to education, 35 millions children do not attend schools and 53 percent of girl children in the age group of six to nine years are illiterate. The India government has enforced the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act on August, 2009, with the prime objective of providing free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years. Ironically, it was enforced only after 62 years of Indian Independence, when the state realised about its failure in fulfilling the promises made in the Constitution of India. The fundamental question here is does this legislation have comprehensive provisions to address the issues of denial of the children’s right to education?
According to a pioneer child rights organisation the “Child Rights and You” (CRY), the Act does not cover every child. The major argument is, since a person below the age of 18 is a considered “child” in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, which has been ratified by the Indian government therefore the children of the age of 14 to 18 should also be included in the Act. Similarly, the children below the age of six are also denied free and compulsory education in the Act, which needs to be reconsidered. The CRY demands for the 10 per cent of the budget allocation for education as the union budget has been reduced from 3.84 per cent in 2008-09 to 3.03 per cent in 2009-10. It also demands that there should be schools within a distance of one kilometre with quality teachers and basic amenities so that all children including girls (neglected in legislation) can be ensured their right to education. However, the question continues is: Will this legislation address the issues of right to education of the poor children?
Obviously, one analyst would say “No” because the Indian government is totally failure in the policy implementation (meant for the marginalised people) and also it has always adhered to the principles of double standards. According to the latest development, the government has enforced the legislation for ensuring the children’s right to education on the one hand and the security forces have been occupying more and more government schools (where the children of the
marginalized communities pursue their studies) in the name of the national security, on the other hand. For instance, the security forces have occupied 43 schools in Jharkhand and 22 schools in Lalgarh for more than six months, which affected the studies of nearly 25,000 children, and the security forces are ready to vacate some of these schools only after the intervention of the Jharkhand and Calcutta High Courts on the basis of the PIL.
The question comes into one’s mind is: Does the state have right to suspend the human rights in the name of the so-called national security? According to the prominent Human Rights Activist Dr Binayak Sen, “The human rights are beyond sovereignty.” In that case, the state should not be allowed to violate the human rights in the name of sovereignty. But the major problem is, the India middle class does not bother about the rights of the marginalised people, whose rights are violated in every walk of their lives. The former DGP of UP Prakash Singh argues that there should not be ‘the states within state’. The question is how can you deny, suppress or bury the centuries-old concept of Munda Dishum, Santhal Dishum and Ho Dishum (Munda, Santhal and Ho countries) when the existing state regularly neglects, denies and deprives the rights of the children of Munda, Santhal and Ho communities?
Indeed, the schools, where the children of the marginalised communities are suppose to pursue their studies do not remain like schools but are converted into military camps, which is a deliberate attempt of the state to encourage the Maoist for blowing up the school buildings so that it can comfortably get rid of its constitutional responsibilities. Of course, the Maoists’ acts of blowing up school buildings can not be justified but at the same time, can we accept the government’s justification when it argues that the children’s studies do not get affected by the security forces occupying the school buildings? Do we want our children to engineer their destiny under the shadow of guns?
The fact of the matter is this kind of meaningless argument would go on only because in the either ways, the sufferers are always the children of the tribals, dalits and marginalised people and not the children of the sunglasses families. When the security forces occupy the school buildings, the education of the marginalised children get affected. Similarly, if the Maoists blow up the school buildings, their studies are stopped and the government secures one blank warrantee card, where is writes that “the development activities cannot be carried out in the region till the Maoist vacate the vicinity” and the denial of the children’s rights to education continues.
Therefore, one must ask a question to the corporate Home Minister P Chidambaram, will he allow his gunmen (the security forces) to occupy the Delhi Public School, Doon School or so-called high-standard minority schools (the poor minorities cannot afford to send their kids to these schools), where the kids of the sunglasses pursue their studies? Though the foundation of India lies on the principles of liberty, equality, dignity, justice and fraternity, we walk with the dual education system, which only facilitates in widening the disparity in the country day-by-day. According to the American philosopher Allan David, “Education is the movement from darkness to light.” If we want the marginalised children’s rights to be ensured, we must (in the ongoing democratic debates) ask a question repeatedly to the Indian government: Does a poor child really have the right to education in the so-called largest democratic country?
By Gladson Dungdung