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Dispur tables Bill to rein in private schools

GUWAHATI, April 2: In a development that is expected to bring relief to parents from the alarmingly rising monetary burden they are enduring for sending their children to private schools, the State government on Monday tabled the Assam Non-Government Educatiol Institutions (Regulation of Fees) Bill, 2018 in the Assembly to fix fees to be charged from students by private institutions.
Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in his statement of objectives and reasons in the Bill, said the objective of the proposed legislation is to make provision for fixation of fees for the non-governmental educatiol institutions in the State.
“As there is pressing demand from various guardians of students, it has been decided to constitute a Fee Regulatory and Fee Revision Committee to fix the maximum fees to be charged from the students/guardians of these students,” Sarma said.
The Bill was, however, tabled in the Assembly on Monday by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in the absence of Sarma.
As per the provisions of the proposed legislation, the State government will constitute a Fee Regulatory Committee to determine fees for any standard or course of study in private schools. The committee, to be headed by a chairperson, will consist of a retired district and session judge or persons who had been members of All India services having retired from a post not below the rank of commissioner and secretary to government or persons who had been members of the Indian Police Service, having retired from a post not below the rank of additiol director general of police, as its members.
The committee will also have a chartered accountant, a civil engineer, the secretaries of the Assam Higher Education Council and the Board of Secondary Education, Assam, representatives from private institutions and prominent academicians as members. All members will be nomited by the State government.
As per the provisions of the proposed legislation, private schools will be bound to submit their proposed fee structure with all relevant documents and books of accounts for scrutiny to the fee regulatory committee. The committee will verify whether the fees proposed by private schools are justified and whether it amounts to profiteering or charging of exorbitant fee. The committee will recommend the maximum limits of fees to be charged by different categories of non-government educatiol institutions every year before the beginning of the academic session.
The proposed legislation has also stringent provisions to impose pelties and punitive actions against the erring private institutions. Private schools will have to pay fine to the tune of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh in case they violate the provisions of the proposed Act. Recognition or registration of private schools will be cancelled in case they are found in gross of violation of rules.
While many parents have welcomed the government’s move to regulate the private schools, they are also apprehensive at the same time about effective enforcement of the proposed law.  “Time will only say ow the State education department will prevent the influential private schools’ lobby from use their clout to skip the proposed legislation,” Samsher Ali, a resident of Khapara whose son goes to a leading private school in the city, said.
Ali said his son’s school charges more than Rs 20,000 in the me of readmission or renewal in the very beginning of the academic year. “Apart from readmission fee, I have to pay Rs 10,000 plus every quarter. Major portion of my salary goes to my son’s school. Hope the proposed legislation will bring an end to the practice of private schools to hike fees at the drop of a hat,” he said.