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New Delhi: Less than 30% of the seats earmarked for disadvantaged students in private schools under the right to education (RTE) norm has been filled up, said a study released on Tuesday, seeking well-defined rules to ensure effective implementation of the law.

The study said that out of 21,40,287 seats in private schools across the counry, only 29% of the seats have been filled up by schools. The worst performing state is Uttar Pradesh where just 3% of 5,84,949 seats have been filled up. The scenario is more dismal in Andhra Pradesh with only 0.2% of 1,72,239 seats have been filled up. Rajasthan has done comparatevely better where 69% of the 2,26,583 seats earmarked for such students have been filled up, the report said, analysing the data of District Information System for Education (DISE) 2013-14.

The report was prepared collectively by IIM Ahmedabad, the Central Square Foundation, Accountability Initiative and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. As per the RTE act, enacted five years back, 25% reservation has been provided for disadvantaged students in private schools. However, schools have come in for criticism for ineffective implemntation of this rule.

“The number of students who have secured admission in private schools under the 25% reservation provision is extremely low. Even after 5 years of RTE, state rules and notifications of this provision are not clearly defined, leading to ineffective implementation across states. If implemented effectively, this policy can provide opportunities to 1.6 crore children across India," CEO of Central Square Foundation Ashish Dhawan said at the release of the report. Notifying income limit has been suggested as one of the areas to be addressed so that students of weaker sections can actually benefit from the 25 per cent reservation.

“It is essential that all states notify an income limit. Without such notification, the definition of ‘child belonging to weaker section’ in section 2(e) of the act is rendered devoid of any meaning. If the minimum income limit is not specified by the appropriate government, private unaided schools will also not be able to determine which children are eligible to free elementary education under section 12(1)(c)," the report said.

To ensure implementation of these provisions, a writ of mandamus (direction) could be sought from the appropriate high court, directing states to notify annual income limits for the purpose of defining children belonging to weaker sections, it also suggested.

The report also highlights that in 2013-14, out of 2.06 lakh private unaided schools with Class I, only about 45,000 schools reported enrolling students under this rule. States such as Andhra Pradesh (0.1%), Odisha (1%) and Uttar Pradesh (2%) have reported the lowest school participation rate. On the other hand, Rajasthan (65%), Delhi (48%) and Uttarakhand (43%) rank among the states with the highest school participation rate under this provision.

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