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Schools slam doors on DA

Months after a Supreme Court ruling allowed governments a larger say in the day-to-day affairs of minority educational institutions availing of state assistance, such schools have already started giving the aid a wide berth.

At least half-a-dozen premier English-medium schools in the city and Howrah have already written to the state government, informing it of their decision to stop accepting any financial grant from it, which would have gone towards payment of the dearness allowance (DA) of teachers and non-teaching staff.

State school education minister Kanti Biswas admitted on Monday that his department had started getting the “We don’t need your help, thank you” letters. “A few letters came last week,” he said. Even if he was unhappy about losing some influence on Calcutta’s better schools, he was not showing it. “We welcome their proposal, as this is going to help the state government save a substantial amount,” the minister said, adding that the government spent Rs 30 crore annually on the DA score.

The schools — all of which belong to the Church of North India (CNI) group — are keeping mum. They have not stated how they are going to make up for the shortfall, though guardians fear they will have to bear the brunt. Officers, too, have confirmed parental fears.

Vice-principal Loren Mirza of St Thomas School, Howrah, said a final decision was yet to be taken. She refused to comment on the guardians’ fears. The apex court ruling, which paved the way for government control on administrative affairs of government-aided minority institutions, came last year. Subsequently, CNI institutions went into a huddle to decide on a strategy of eschewing the government.

They had good reason for doing so. Biswas late last year told reporters at Writers’ Buildings that the Left Front government was actually considering framing a new set of rules and guidelines for those Anglo-Indian schools that were availing of government DA grants.

There are 67 such schools in the city, many of them considered the best as far as school education is concerned. A good number of them have been drawing government grants from pre- Independence times.

Though Biswas did not comment on this issue on Monday, he sought to allay fears of the teaching community that they stood to lose in this tussle. “My government is going to ensure that teachers working in these institutions are not harassed, even if the schools’ authorities decide to go out of the government’s DA umbrella,” he said.

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