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Mayor twist to fee-hike move

- ANGRY PARENTS ATTACK TEACHERS AT DAV SCHOOLS IN CUTTACK
Parents protest against fee hike and (above) and jostle with police at Pohkariput DAV School in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday. Pictures by Sanjib Mukherjee

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 12: Mayor Ananta Narayan Jena, who is a member of the interim committee that ordered a fee hike for DAV Public Schools in the state, has alleged that the chairman of the panel took a “unilateral” decision in violation of the Supreme Court’s order.

Special secretary, school and mass education department, I.C. Barda, who retired on November 30, headed the committee constituted according to the instructions of the apex court in May. Jena said the committee met thrice – on June 25, July 26 and October 10 – where the matter of enhancement of tuition fee was thoroughly discussed. However, the members could not arrive at a conclusion because of incomplete details about the financial status of the DAV schools.

“The Supreme Court had directed the committee to fix the fees by end of last month. However, no meeting was convened after November 2. Surprisingly, the committee chairman issued a unilateral decision 20 days ago, allowing DAV schools to enhance the fees in consultation with the parent-teacher co-ordination committees (PTCCs). This clearly violates the court order,” Jena said.

The mayor has also sought the intervention of school and mass education officials, urging them to direct the DAV management to “withdraw the controversial fee hike notice immediately”.

On September 6 last year, Orissa High Court had ruled against the fee hike by the management of DAV schools in the twin cities. A division bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda had endorsed an earlier court ruling, which said that the “Orissa Education Act is applicable to the DAV schools, which are affiliated to the CBSE. The managing committee is to be constituted in accordance with the Orissa Education Act and not according to the affiliation by-laws of the CBSE”.

The regional director of DAV schools had then moved the Supreme Court, which had asked for income and expenditure statement of the 14 DAV schools in Odisha by mid-May. Jena alleged that the details had not yet been submitted.

Secretary of school and mass education department Usha Padhee had also written to the regional director on November 22, stating that these CBSE-affiliated schools had never submitted an income tax exemption certificate or proof that the schools were paying salaries to teaching and non-teaching staff according to the scale of Fifth Pay Commission.

“None of the schools has also disclosed (information) regarding the mode of payment being followed by schools for maintaining transparency so as to enable the committee to know the actual payment being made and expenditure being incurred. None has also submitted the strength of teachers and students class-wise,” her letter read, highlighting the fact that such details were necessary to determine a fee structure.

Members of the various DAV parents’ associations across the state staged protests outside these private English-medium schools, demanding withdrawal of the fee hike. It took a violent turn at DAV, CDA, in Cuttack as angry parents allegedly attacked two teachers and ransacked school property. But parents maintain that the school authorities had misbehaved with them. Bidanasi police has registered two separate complaints in this regard.

Teachers and parents also allegedly jostled with each other at DAV-Gandarpur in Cuttack. Cuttack district administration has called for an emergency meeting on Thursday to sort out the issue amicably. “We have called a meeting with members of parents’ association and DAV management to discuss the fee hike issue which has snowballed into a major controversy,” said district collector Girish S.N.