Punjab: Parents up the ante against arbitrary fee hike by schools

Protests including hunger strike, sit in, road blocks and candlelight march erupted in Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Batala, Bathinda and Pathankot.

After the violent Panjab University fee hike protest in Chandigarh, over six major towns in Punjab are witnessing similar protests. Thousands of parents have upped their ante against the arbitrary fee hike and compulsion to buy books of private publishers by the private schools.

Protests including hunger strike, sit in, road blocks and candlelight march erupted in Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Batala, Bathinda and Pathankot besides other areas against the systematic 'loot' of private schools.

Parents alleged that a sizeable chunk of private schools are owned by the politicians including the ruling Congress. The deputy commissioners and education department officials were reluctant to take action against the schools due to the political interference.

Sources said that the schools, besides indulging in indiscriminate fee hike, also ask parents to buy books from private publishers and compel them to deposit fees of three months in advance.

"The government is sleeping. Captain Amarinder Singh had assured before the elections that the government will curb the practice by making a law. Parents have become a source of exploitation under the nose of the government. We demand strict action against the erring schools who do not recommend NCERT books and compel parents to buy costly textbooks from private publishers. Interestingly, the nationwide nexus of publishers and school management is acting like a mafia. They cleverly change a page or two and ask parents to buy new editions every year," a Ludhiana based parent Purushottam Sharma told India Today.

Parent associations have also decided to meet the Punjab Governor Vijayendrapal Singh Badnore to apprise him about the open loot.

PUNJAB CABINET GIVES NOD FOR LEGISLATION TO CURB FEE HIKE

The Punjab cabinet today gave its nod to the Punjab State Regulation of Fee of Unaided Educational Institutions Rules, 2017, to rationalise school fees.

"The rules would cap the annual fee hike by private schools at 8 per cent of the previous year's fee. All other funds charged by the schools would also be covered by these rules," Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said.

The BJP has slammed the state government for having ignored the woes of the parents who have been protesting against the fee hike for over a month now.

"Punjab Regulation of Fee of Unaided Educational Institutions Act, 2016 was already in force but the government wants another act which may take another month or so to become a law, thereby giving enough time to the private schools to loot the parents. We demand stern action against the erring schools which have forced the parents to pay hefty amount of development fees besides the books," Vineet Joshi, secretary, Punjab BJP said.

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