Tripura CM Defends Privatisation of Schools, Refutes Manik Sarkar's 'Profit Making' Allegations

Kolkata: Two days after Tripura CPM leader Manik Sarkar expressed concerns over the state government’s decision to hand over schools and the midday meal programmes to private parties, Chief Minister Biplab Deb claimed that his accusation lacks basic facts as they have decided to privatise only those schools which are either closed due to zero enrollment or are on the verge of being closed down due to less than ten students.

In a letter to the former chief minister on Thursday, Biplab Deb said, “The fear of few government schools, allegedly being handed over to a private management is based on non-appreciation of some basic facts of the decision. To begin with, these are either government schools, which were closed down due to zero enrollment or on the verge of being closed down due to enrollment being less than ten students. In order to utilize these assets created with tax payers’ money, we have decide to allow a charitable trust, working in remote tribal areas to establish English medium school, ensuring quality of education. Neither land nor building has been leased or licensed out, let alone being transferred.”

He said, “In these schools, my government will tap central funds to reimburse the fees of 25% of the children from economically weaker sections.”

On the context of mid-day meal contract being handed over to private parties, he said, “Semi automated, hygienic kitchens with minimal chances of contamination are huge step forward to safeguard the health and nutrition of our children. One of the private agencies is ‘Akshaypatra’ - a charitable organisation, which most state governments across the country are proudly collaborating with for many years. They will spend a substantial amount of money in setting up these kitchens. Moreover, they will pump in around Rs 3 to Rs 4 per child per day to add more nutritional inputs to our children. Thus, the second concern (expressed my Manik Sarkar) of handing over the Mid-Day meal programme to a private agency surprise me, as I am receiving unstinted support from all quarters in this regard.”

While hitting out at Sarkar, Deb said, “We intend to take a large number of corrective and innovative steps to improve the quality of our education. Having held the esteemed position of Chief Minister of Tripura for about two decades and also being the leader of the Opposition, I would expect you to constructively support the state government in improving quality of education."

Deb’s reaction came after Manik Sarkar wrote a letter to him on July 16 expressing deep concern over privatising schools and mid-day meals. “I cannot recollect that Tripura government has ever handed over any government run schools to any private management. If implemented, the students belonging to poor economic family will be burdened to meet the financial requirements. The very decision is only going to take care of the profit making motive of the concerned agency (s).”