When regulations force schools to close down

A rising spate of regulations in the education sector is slowly choking the supply. And Education departments around the country are catching up to Revenue and Transport departments in their levels of corruption. The irony is that the Education department officials turn a blind eye to the government schools, which often don’t meet even the most basic regulatory standards.

Unfortunately, parents whose kids are in private schools are not sufficiently worried about this. They believe that schools should be forced to keep fees as low as possible, while delivering quality education. They also believe that their children’s schools will pay bribes to remain in operation as they are.

This kind of self-interest will backfire. In a rising number of cases school owners are walking away from the sector altogether, tired of harassment by BEOs and others. 21,000 schools have closed since the enactment of the RTE Act, and my guess is that another 5000 or so that would have otherwise opened have decided not to. That means that there are at least 2 million fewer ‘places’ in schools as a result. And parents will continue to scramble more and more to get their wards into the schools that continue to operate.

Clean India needs policy reforms

In areas of executive action, the Centre can move fast, without buy-in from anyone else. PSUs, foreign affairs, lowering and raising taxes and cesses, altering procedures for documentation and other services of the Centre, etc. are therefore the most visible signs of energetic leadership by a new government. In other areas, we will need more than a canvas. We will need a strategic roadmap for achieving the goals that are identified.

Clean India needs policy reform (segregation, landfill avoidance, local rights). Smart Cities need open data. Loksatta’s proposed local transfer scheme (Rs.1000 / resident / year to each ward) will shift budgetary allocations. Make in India requires tackling the license and inspector raj. Genuine good governance requires an independent Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in each state, and real powers to anti-corruption squads. More importantly, such changes shift the balance of power between citizens and netas, and make ordinary people more empowered to demand better outcomes from the system.

Thus far, while the PM is saying all the right things, there is no sign that the rest of the party is aligning with those goals in such evident, local levels. In fact, in a few cases (like the Lokpal) it seems like the party has overcome the PM’s goals, rather than the other way around. Every new PM gets a fresh starting clock, and people have been waiting for the ship to turn, hoping that this will happen eventually.

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