New Delhi: With an eye on the general elections likely to take place within a year, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) plans to speedily clear the Right to Education Bill, which calls for reserving seats for the poor in private schools and enforces quality standards in government schools.
According to officials familiar with the development who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Union cabinet plans to take up the Bill, pending clearance since 2005, on Friday. A copy of the latest draft, prepared in February, was reviewed by Mint.
Apart from guaranteeing education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years, the Bill promises that 25% of seats would be reserved for the poor in private schools. The schools will be compensated with grants by the Union or state governments.
The Bill also prescribes minimum standards that government schools would have to enforce, using the yardstick of teacher-student ratio, availability of teaching material and books for students.
What is still unclear is how the programme would be funded and whether the Centre would subsidize it. According to R. Govinda, of the National University of Eductional Planning and Administration, state governments will have to follow the Centre on the education law.
“They have no choice as this is a central legislation,” said Govinda, who was involved in drafting the Bill.
The Bill makes an exceptions for schools such as Kendriya Vidyalayas, which are exempted from providing free education to the poor.
Different yardstick: Slum children studying at an open-air primary school at Malda, West Bengal. The Right to Education Bill promises that quality standards will be enforced in government schools. (Deshakalyan Chowdury / AFP)
The cabinet is also expected to clear the proposed Forward Contracts Regulation Amendment Bill, which seeks to give more teeth to the Forward Market Commission, or FMC, that regulates the comodities futures market.
The Bill, once enacted, is also expected to pave the way for the introduction of instruments such as call and put options. A call option gives the holder of the contract the right to buy a certain quantity of a commodity at a specified price up to a specified date. A put option, gives the owner, the right to sell a specified amount of a commodity, at a specified price, within a specified time.
The cabinet is also expected to free the sugar industry from a system under which sugar factories are expected to divert 10% of their production to the public distribution system at a rate lower than market price.