Over 100 parents took to the streets in Chennai outside branches of the Srimathi Sundravalli Memorial (SSM) School in Perungalathur and Chrompet on Friday, after the institute asked them to pay an illegal caution deposit of Rs 2,00,000. They have taken the matter to the CBSE, pointing out that the management has cornered them into either paying the amount or removing their ward from the institution for the next academic year.
The circular was given to the parents of wards in both branches on Thursday. It acknowledged that they have already paid a caution deposit of Rs 20,000 and claimed that the enhanced amount to be paid was Rs.1,80,000. It further reads, â€śThose parents who are not willing to or cannot pay the enhanced Caution Deposit as stated above can take a final decision before 31.07.2018 and communicate the same through the acknowledgement slip enclosed. Those who commit to leave the school at the end of the year, the TC (Transfer Certificate) will be issued at the end of this academic year. This information is a must for the management to plan for running the school for the next 10 years and also for making the necessary arrangements for the academic year 2019-20.â€ť
Caution deposit is an amount of money that someone has to pay when they rent property, use a service, etc. It is usually returned at when the contract/usage of service ends if there is no damage to goods and services used. In this case however, the school has not mentioned if the amount is refundable.
In the circular the management has stated that the caution deposit may be fixed from time to time taking into account the escalation in the cost of running the school and the world class facilities provided.
The school claims the decision was painful and taken with a heavy heart. It, however, makes it clear that it is unfazed if the student strength reduced.
â€śThe management has wholeheartedly prepared to run the school with a lesser strength than to compromise with the quality of service, ethics and values,â€ť reads the circular. Parents have been given till July 31 to respond to the demand for the deposit.
Shocked parents allege that this is not the first time that money has been demanded. The short period to make their decision has further left them completely hassled.
"It all began earlier this year when we first got a circular asking parents to contribute how much ever they can for the school. Then we got another circular where the school requested us to pay Rs 5 lakh if we wanted to reserve a seat in their medical college. One that hasnâ€™t even been built yet. This, however, was not compulsory so many did not respond," alleges Sudha*, whose daughter studies in class four at the Perangalathur branch of the school.
"Now, the latest circular is the increase in caution deposit. We know they had increased the caution deposit to Rs 1 lakh for new admissions last year but increasing it for existing students is not fair. The school does have good facilities, and we have no complaints in terms of education being offered, but this is outrageous. They have given us only 12 daysâ€™ notice to make up our mind. How is this possible? It is impossible to leave when the year is halfway through, which school will take us in? There is no option but to say yes now. We might have to look for other schools in the meantime," she adds.
TNM spoke to Bhaskar*, who has two children studying at the Chrompet branch. On Friday morning, he visited the regional office of the CBSE to report the issue but was left disappointed.
"We met the legal officer of the CBSE and he said that he will inquire into the issue and send a notice to the school. He says they can't regulate but only seek clarity. So, the CBSE is saying they cannot take coercive action. He said I am not a regulatory body and that common sense has to prevail," explains Bhaskar. "This is completely illegal and now only the state can intervene," he adds.
Parents further fear that this could become a practice for the school.
"I have two children studying in this school. I paid Rs 20,000 for my daughter and Rs 1,00,000 for my son. Iâ€™ll now have to pay Rs 3,80,000 as caution deposit next year if I want to continue here. This is in addition to Rs 1,00,000 annual fees each. The amount Iâ€™ll have to pay next year is Rs 5,80,000. In a single member earning family, how is this possible?â€ť asks Radha*, a parent.
Educational activist Prince Gajendrababu points out that the institution's demands are directly in contradiction to a Supreme Court ruling which made the demand for capitation fees made by educational institutions unethical and illegal. A Constitution Bench comprising justices AR Dave, AK Sikri, RK Agrawal, AK Goel and R Banumathi made this clear in the Modern Dental College and Research Centre versus state of Madhya Pradesh case on May 2, 2016. The court had further pointed out that the state cannot remain a mute spectator and has to step in to prevent the malpractices indulged in by the private sector.
"What the college is doing is against the right to education of children. The state government needs to step and do the needful to stop this illegal activity," says the activist.
When TNM contacted the school, the Principal claimed that the decision was taken by the management and that the employees had nothing to do with it.
*Names changed on request.