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Education as a fundamental right

I am glad to forward the views of Madhav (of Pratham) on education as a
fundamental right. I think we must take a considered view on this.

I haven;t had the time to contribute to the discussion. However, I will 
when I get the time.

As far as making education a justiceable fundamental right is concerned, 
it became so in 1993 after the Unnikrishnan Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh 
decision of the Supreme Court. People just are not aware of it and do 
not know how to proceed. Making it a part of the Constitution is another 
matter. If you see the Statement of Reason in the Bill (you'll have to 
browse the site for the Report of the Parliamentary Committee and find 
the Bill in the compilation), you will see one set of question.  To me, 
the Courts making it a fundamental right and 2/3 majority in the 
Parliament voting for it is very different. Getting 5 MPs to stand for 
it right now is difficult (they all say it should be done). To get the 
2/3 MPs to stand up for it will require some major political 
churning.... that process is clearly very important in a democracy since 
it leads to various arguments and counter arguments which clarify 
thinking etc. 

The feared litigations could be of two type: unreasonable and just. 
However, most people feel that we need not fear the unreasonable. There 
is so much more just litigation possisble and needs to be taken up. The 
litigations go on anyway.... 

I am sending you a brief report of a Conference we had organized 
recently in Delhi.

April 24-25, 1998	
New Delhi

Summary of the Proceedings

About 180 people from various walks of life, including representatives 
from government and non-governmental organisations participated in the 
National Conference.  The participants came from many states in the 

April 24

Nearly 250,000 letters addressed to the President of India, were 
received as part of the Voice of India campaign.  Of these, some 13,000 
letters were pasted to a cloth of one kilometre length and displayed in 
a prominent place in Delhi.  About 200 school children had volunteered 
to hold the cloth containing the letters.

The Inaugural Address was made by Dr. Armaity Desai (Trustee - Pratham 
and Chairperson of University Grants Commission) and Mr. P. R. Dasgupta 
(Secretary-Education, Government of India).  Two children presented a 
some files containing these letters to Mr. Dasgupta.  Two letters were 
also read out in the Conference. 

Dr. Manmohan Singh (Former Finance Minister) and Mr. Bratin Sengupta 
(Rajya Sabha MP - CPM) participated in the Panel Discussion on "Current 
Status of the Bill and Finances", which was moderated by Mr. Mahesh 
Rangarajan (Political Analyst).  In a situation of scarce resources, the 
tendency on the part of the government will be to allocate more money to 
areas where there is great public demand.  Therefore, it will be 
extremely important to build up public pressure in order to get greater 
financial allocations for education.

The Panel Discussion on "Legal Aspects" had Dr. N. L. Mitra (Director of 
National Law School), Justice Leila Seth (Member of the Law Commission 
of India), Ms. Kiran Bedi (Senior IPS Officer), and Mr. Gordon Alexander 
(India representative - UNICEF).  The session was moderated by Ms. 
Vasudha Dhagamvar (Senior Lawyer).  The panellists felt that though the 
Supreme Court had ruled that education is a fundamental right, it will 
be important to formalise the same through a Constitutional Amendment.  

Senior leader of the Congress party Mr. Rajesh Pilot, Minister of State 
for HRD Ms. Uma Bharti and Former Home Secretary and Senior bureaucrat 
Mr. Padmanabhiah participated in the session on "Political and 
Administrative Will".  The session was moderated by Mr. Rajdeep 
Sardesai, a popular TV journalist.  The panel felt that it would be very 
important that the demand for better education come from the people.  
Political will can be shaped by the will of the people.

The evening was spent in group discussions among NGO participants (in 3 
groups) to work out an action plan and debate the Draft Resolution that 
had been circulated to all participants.

April 25

One representative from each of the three groups was given the 
opportunity to present the groupsí views.  The session was then opened 
up for all participants to provide their inputs on the Draft Resolution.  
The session was co-ordinated by Ms. Vijaya Chauhan (UNICEF - 

The National Conference concluded with a solemn declaration on the part 
of all partners of the National Alliance to implement the Fundamental 
Right to Education, based on the Supreme Court judgement.  The National 
Alliance will work out the details of an action plan and circulate it to 
all participants and will encourage many more organisations to be part 
of the Alliance.

The Conference concluded at 2.00 p.m.

>From sabhlok@rcf.usc.edu Thu Apr 30 23:05:34 1998

>Might not we then the government get bogged down by millions of 
>claiming that their rights have been violated? Will there be a specific
>yardstick to measure the discharge of the liability of the government
>toward this fundamental right? Which currently developed nations have 
>the concept of fundamental right to primary education in order to 
>the target of 100% literacy? 
>I am sure that much of this material is on the Pratham website, but we
>be very happy to have a brief response on these issues.


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