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School CP - January 2004

Corpun file 12632

The Statesman, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), 17 January 2004

Spare the rod, says draft law

By Shahid Pervez
Statesman News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan. 17. – Millions of children across the country may soon heave a sigh of relief as the modified version of the draft Free and Compulsory Education for Children Bill proposes a ban on corporal punishment in schools.

The modified draft legislation stipulates that a teacher will commit “professional misconduct” and will be liable to be “punished” as per disciplinary rules if he/she violates this ban. It makes the provision more stringent by making it clear that if a recognised school fails to take action against such an erring teacher, it may lose its recognition or state grant or both.

Galvanised by the Lok Sabha polls, Union HRD minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi asked top officials of his elementary education department last week to modify and finalise the draft Bill immediately. The department prepared the modified version and sent it on 12 January to states/UTs for their comments.

Dr Joshi said the original draft Bill needed to be made “more practical for implementation” in view of suggestions received from the public, states, politicians, media and educationists. After the states send their feedback to the HRD ministry, the draft Bill will be forwarded to the law ministry for clearance and subsequently placed before the Cabinet for approval before it is readied for introduction in Parliament.

Mr Joshi may be racing against time if he is aiming to get the Bill passed before the parliamentary polls. For, only a three-day Lok Sabha session is expected to be convened during 3-5 February to get a vote-on-account to be followed by its dissolution.

Dr Joshi will, however, get at least an election issue for himself by expediting the process and taking the draft Bill to a decisive stage close to its inevitable enactment, sources said.

The draft Bill to enforce and operationalise the 86th Constitutional Amendment — passed by Parliament more than a year ago making free and compulsory elementary education (from classes I to VIII) a fundamental right for all children aged 6-14 — was worked out in September last year.

The HRD ministry had planned to introduce the Bill in Parliament in the winter session so that legislation could be brought in force from the next academic session beginning April, but in vain.

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