The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Church schools fear meddling

Calcutta, Nov. 1: Christian educational institutions in the state today put their heads together at a series of informal meetings to gauge the impact of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on their uneasy relationship with the Left Front government.

The apex court had upheld the government’s right to interfere through “regulatory measures” in minority institutions for the sake of “educational excellence”. The court also ruled that admissions to all government-aided minority institutions — around 200 Christian institutions in Bengal fall in this category — would come under state control.

As some key Church leaders had gone out of Calcutta, the Bangiya Christiya Parisheba, an influential lobby representing all denominations, took the lead in setting up the informal meetings. An emissary is expected to be sent to Delhi soon to obtain a copy of the verdict. In Bengal, Church bodies control nearly 400 educational institutions.

“We need to know how the judgment is going to work out,” said Father Peter Arulraj, a senior functionary of the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools. “What we ought to do will be clear after the examination of the fine print.”

The government now spends an estimated Rs 75 crore on salary and dearness allowance to around 7,000 teachers and non-teaching staff of the 200-odd educational institutions that follow recruitment policies laid down by the Church.

The Supreme Court has not specifically listed the government’s right to interfere in recruitment other than prescribing the minimum qualification.

But officials of some Christian schools felt that the ruling which said “the right to administer minority institutions will be subject to government regulations” leaves them vulnerable, if a government has hostile intentions.

Given the CPM’s absolute control on state politics and educational institutions, areas such as appointment of heads and teachers, admission of students and funding are prone to interference, the school officials said.

Minority-run schools are bracing for demands to accommodate more students recommended by the government.

“For the institutions which will be touched by the judgment, the main concern will be how to stay out of government control. Their high standards will suffer if the government is allowed to tinker with the system in such institutions,” says Herod Mullick, general secretary, Bangiya Christiya Parisheba.

The state-run school service commission, packed with CPM faithfuls, is expected to play a big role if the government decides to take a pro-active role.

State education officials said the government would begin an exercise to assess the judgment and decide the future course when minister Kanti Biswas returns from holiday abroad sometime next week. “It is a sensitive issue that will be addressed by the government in due course,” said Debashis Bose, special secretary in the school education department.

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