Opposition parties here have questioned the Delhi government’s recent announcement of taking over the management of over 400 private schools in the national capital if they do not comply with the government’s order to refund “overcharged” fees to students. The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has maintained that the party has been trying to stop schools from exploiting parents. 

The Delhi BJP has criticised the Delhi government and AAP. Harish Khurana, BJP spokesperson, told The Sunday Guardian: “Rather than getting into such confrontation with school managements, the AAP should sit with both such managements and parents to arrive at an amicable solution.”

However, senior leader of the AAP and MLA Somnath Bharti told The Sunday Guardian, “We are not interfering with school managements. What we are seeking to achieve is to stop the exploitation of parents at the hands of big private schools. The Delhi government’s order is not being implemented randomly, but on the recommendation of the Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee.”

Khurana said, “On what basis is AAP saying that private schools are charging more? Have they done a survey on this? I do not think that the people of Delhi will accept such a decision, when the government is not even being able to get its act together in their own government schools.”

Haroon Yusuf, senior Congress leader and former Cabinet Minister in the Sheila Dikshit government, termed the AAP government’s move as a “populist” measure. Yusuf told The Sunday Guardian, “The Delhi government should stop resorting to such populist announcements and conduct an inquiry if they think schools are resorting to unfair practices. The Delhi Education Act has provisions for schools to be penalised if they do anything unfair.”

Congress spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee said: “There’s a lot of difference between what Arvind Kejriwal says and what his actual intentions are. Instead of making empty threats to take over private schools, his government should ensure regulation of fees, but that is clearly not his intention. In the Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill 2015 tabled by the AAP government and passed by the Assembly, there was no time frame within which the schools have to refund excess fees, or to pay fine. “

“There was no provision to regulate fees, giving a free hand to private schools to charge as much as they want,” she added. 

The Delhi government has clarified that it does not intend to “interfere” in school managements and in the working of private schools. Rather, it said that it aims to  “discipline” them. 

Addressing reporters here on Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said: “The schools will not be allowed to loot students like they used to do under previous governments due to political collusion. But if they don’t implement…we will take them over as a last resort.”

Adding that he hoped “they don’t have to take over”, he said:. “Today, we intend to send out a message to the managements of those schools to implement the recommendations.”

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