Bangalore: The Right to Education is not even a year old yet, but the whiff of a scam is already gathering steam in Karnataka. The schools in Karnataka say that families fake their income certificates which are generously issued by tahsildars to make themselves eligible for RTE, even as the really poor and the deserving are left out.
When G Venkatesh applied for his son's admission to a school in Bangalore North, he sought the 25 per cent quota under RTE. The income certificate issued by his village tahsildar, which he showed to the school, said that he earned Rs 16,000 a year. However, his rent agreement, which he gave as address proof, said that he paid a rent of Rs 2500 a month. That sums up to over Rs 25,000 annually.
Thippechittappa is another 'miracle' parent. He claims to earn just Rs 11,000 a year, but pays a rent of Rs 1,200 a month. That amounts to Rs 12,000 a year - a contradiction that the tahsildar chose to ignore.
Then there are parents like Shivakumar who earned Rs 60,000 in 2012 but whose income fell to just Rs 12,000 this year; KN Krishnamurthy who got two different income certificates within a span of ten days!
Private schools in Karnataka have protested to the government against undeserving families getting free education under the RTE. They blame the revenue department for the large scale faking of income certificates. Shivarame Gowda, the Chairman of the Karnataka Private School Joint Action Committee, said, "More than 60 to 70 per cent are fake certificates. Let them give their clearances. Those who are there with fake certificates, we are not giving seats."
The schools have handed over suspect documents of nearly 200 children to the government.
D Shashikumar, the Secretary of Blossoms School, said, "Other parents who have not got the seats, they are in dispute. They are showing the people. Those parents have houses, cars, get rental incomes. We are the really economically weaker sections. We have been cheated in this."
The Right to Education Act loosely defines how to identify eligible children. This loophole allows parents of well-off families to take advantage of free education in top schools. Anyone who is self-employed, who can't produce a salary slip, can get an income certificate from the tahsildar on his own claim, and an admission under the RTE quota, even as the government looks the other way.
GC Prakash, the Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore, said, "We can't say it's an irregularity. If there's a known source of income, you can assess it, like you can see the salary slips of government servants. However, if a real estate agent, for example, earns so much money, we can't assess his income. We'll ask revenue inspectors to check case by case."
Over a lakh seats are available under RTE in Karnataka, and even before the programme takes off in full swing, some government officials and parents have found ways of keeping the really deserving children out of the system.