In the out-of-school children’s case in which CIVIC is impleaded, Chief Justice Abhay Shreenivas Oka had asked the government to respond to several suggestions made by CIVIC. In a landmark order on 16th March 2020, he asked the government to implement or re-consider several suggestions made by CIVIC.
1. CIVIC had suggested that, as per defined criteria, “children belonging to weaker sections” and “children belonging to disadvantaged sections“, who are ‘vulnerable’ and likely to drop-out, should be identified at the time of enrollment in the 1st Standard itself and given a bond of Rs. 10,000 which matures to Rs. one lakh when the child completes compulsory education of eight years or when it turns 18 years. There is already such a scheme but only for the first two girl children of BPL families, called “Bhagyalakshmi Scheme”. We have been requesting that it should be extended to cover all ‘vulnerable’ children, including boys.
The government had rejected this suggestion, but Justice Oka has asked the government to reconsider their decision and take a policy decision to initiate such a scheme so that parents are provided an incentive to retain the child in school for eight years. It will be a great achievement for CIVIC, if the government heeds Chief Justice Oka’s suggestion which will give an impetus to the fulfillment of the Right to Education of every child in the State.
2. CIVIC had pointed out that ‘local authorities’, grama panchayats and municipalities, have to conduct a household survey every year and “Maintain a record of all children from birth to fourteen years” in the form of Village/Ward Education Registers as per Rule 6 of RTE Rules but this had not been done since six years. Justice Oka has issued strict orders that this has to be done one month before the begin of the academic year by all ‘local authorities’.
3. CIVIC had suggested that , who have Attendance Authorities (AAs) should be given travel allowance to cover their own travel costs and that of parents of out-of-school children to be brought before Child Welfare Committees at the district level as per Rule 6 of RTE Rules. This was not happening so far as AAs were unwilling to spend from their own pocket for this. Based on CIVIC’s suggestion, the government had accepted to give Rs. 500 as TA to Attendance Authorities but had refused to provide travel cost of the parents. Chief Justice Oka has asked the government to consider raising the amount to be given to AAs and to also cover the travel cost of parents.
4. CIVIC had called for time-frames to be fixed for how long Attendance Authorities can take to persuade parents under Rule 6 to send their children to school and how long Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) can take to decide the case of an out-of-school child. Since no time-frame was fixed for this under Rule 6, AAs were taking months to go on persuading parents defeating the purpose of Rule 6, which was to bring children back to school within time-frames, before they became long-term drop-outs. Chief Justice Oka has asked the government to fix time-frames for this within two months.
Justice Oka has said that several other suggestions made by CIVIC will be taken up at later hearings.