Three days after the Karnataka government cancelled financial aid to two private schools run by RSS strong man Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, a massive protest was held by parents and students of the schools on Friday.
Hundreds of parents and students gathered on BC Road in Bantwal and shouted slogans against the government and Minister Ramanath Rai.
The two schools—Sri Rama Vidya Kendra located in Kalladka and Sri Devi Vidya Kendra—located in Punach, are run by Prabhakar Bhat’s trust.
Protesting parents and students claimed that Sri Rama Vidya Kendra was providing free mid-day meals, uniforms, textbooks for 2,126 students, for which the funds were being granted by the government since 2001.
“Even the Siddaramaiah government continued this for four years, but now the government has withdrawn the grant. Almost 94% of the schools' children come from poor backgrounds and hail from the Dalit, Adivasi and Backward Castes. It is not only these two schools but 52 other schools which the government is funding. But funds for only these two schools has been withdrawn,” one of the protesters alleged.
Alleging that the state government and the District In-Charge Minister Ramanath Rai has wronged the students, they demanded that the government reinstate the funds and threatened to intensify the agitation if their demands were not met.
Protesters alleged that the long-standing rivalry between Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat and Minister Ramanath Rai had led to the fund withdrawal.
On Wednesday, the Karnataka Muzrai Department, which controls the funds allocated to temples, withdrew the financial grant allotted to the Kollur Mookambika Temple. This is the same department that had allocated the funds to the trust led by RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat in Bantwal taluk of Dakshina Kannada district.
The temple, located in Udupi district had granted Rs 2.83 crore to the two schools during the BJP-JD(S) coalition government between 2007 and 2008. The funds were to be allotted till 2016-17 towards midday meals, textbooks and uniforms for students, after which the fund allocation agreement would be renewed.
The state government order, dated July 31 this year, states that the adoption of the two schools—Sri Rama Vidya Kendra and Sri Devi Vidya Kendra—has been cancelled.
During the 10-year period, the temple had granted Rs 2.32 crore to Sri Rama Vidya Kendra and Rs 50.72 lakh to Sri Devi Vidya Kendra.
According to the order, the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997 (Rules 2002) has no provision for providing funds to private educational institutes adopted by any temple and granting the fund would, in turn, be a burden on the temple.
“These two schools were adopted by the temple based on the government’s order in 2007. This is not the only school we have adopted. There is one government-aided school in Kundapur and six unaided ones in Kundapur and Udupi,” said C Janardhan, Executive Officer of the Kollur Mookambika Temple.
According to Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, poor students were benefiting from the government grant have been left in the lurch.
“The trust was getting rice and other items for the midday meals and textbooks. The temple had been giving us cash for the last three years and accounts have been maintained. This is just hate politics by Minister Ramanath Rai,” Bhat told the media.