"Because of avarice and shady dealing, 94 precious lives have been lost, and 18 more will carry the marks of the sordid episode for the rest of their lives"- this is what the Justice Sampath Commission report said about the Kumbakonam School fire tragedy where instead of one, three schools were being run illegally. But the Tamil Nadu government does not seem to have learnt any lesson from it.
Activists claim that on August 18, 2015, the Secretary of School Education issued two illegal government orders to provide conditional recognition till June 31, 2016 to 746 substandard schools.
In a press conference at the Chennai Press Club, A. Narayanan, Director of ChangeIndia said, "Two government orders were used in violation of the existing norms. G.0. 134 was issued to give temporary continual recognition till June 31, 2016 even if they violate safety norms of National Building Code or have not received building approval from the concerned authorities."
The activist mentioned that another government order G.0 135, gave temporary continual recognition to these 746 schools, even though they did not fulfil the minimum land area norm.
The activists questioned why these reports were not made public or placed in the recently held assembly sessions. "The Government has proceeded to act through covert executive orders. In the guise of the future welfare of 5,12,107 students studying in these 746 schools, the Department of School Education seeks to secretly regularise all the irregularities and violations of these schools," said educationist Vasantha Devi.
The Matriculation School director issued circulars to all the school inspectors to obtain proposals from these schools even if they did not fulfill the norms, activists have claimed.
A PIL was filed by education activists in January 2016. The Madras High Court has asked the state government to file its response within four weeks and the case has been called for hearing in March.
The activists claim that none of the rules and regulations passed by various committees and acts have been followed. "The state education department is not following the Sampath Commission report, Chittibabu Committee recommendations, RTE act or the government orders passed by the Supreme Court," said Narayanan.
Asking the state department to cancel the recognition of these 746 schools, he said, "The recognition of these substandard schools violating the norms should be cancelled and they should ensure that these schools should be closed by the end of this academic year."