Saturday, January 25, 2014

Schools in Mumbai demand Aadhaar for fee payment

Schools in Mumbai demand Aadhaar for fee payment

Clara Lewis & Shreya Bhandary, TNN Jul 6, 2013, 03.25AM IST

MUMBAI: The state government, after achieving 80% registration for Aadhaar cards in Mumbai, is leaning on private schools to prod affluent sections of society to register for a unique identification (UID) number, for its last-mile completion.
Many ICSE/CBSE board schools are refusing to accept fees unless parents produce the Aadhaar number or proof that they have applied for one. A parent, whose child is in a CBSE school in the suburbs, said she was turned away when she went to pay monthly fees. "They categorically told me that fees would be accepted only if I brought the Aadhaar card along.''
Another parent whose child studies in an ICSE school said she had paid term fees by cheque in June and bus fees for the first semester. Neither cheque was cleared till Thursday.
But J S Saharia, additional chief secretary, school education, said, "While we have told schools to ensure that every child has a number, there is no compulsion." The coercion is seen on other fronts too, like with salary credits at Mantralaya.
At Mantralaya, the finance department has issued an oral order not to credit salaries of those who do not have a number, sources said.
Chief secretary J K Banthia was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.
The state government is clearly under pressure from the Centre to implement the direct benefit transfer (DBT) project. Thirty-two schemes funded by the Centre are to be implemented through DBT. In Maharashtra, 12 schemes have been selected for the project. The schemes are mostly around student scholarships.
During the last legislative assembly session, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, faced with criticism over poor implementation of UID registrations and opposition from legislators to the online transfer of money, had said that unless a district achieves 85% registration, the schemes will not be shifted online.
The government wants to implement and showcase the DBT project at the earliest, keeping in mind upcoming general elections. But the move has no legal sanctity as the bill on UID is yet to be passed by Parliament.
While schools have been regularly receiving circulars from the education department, making it clear that Aadhaar cards have to be compulsory for their staff, students and parents, only aided schools have taken them seriously.
"For aided schools, the entire system of salary payment has been converted from manual to online, therefore we have no choice but to ensure that our Aadhaar cards are in place," said Sangeeta Srivastava, principal, KES School in Kandivli (W). She said schools have also been told to inform parents to apply for Aadhaar cards at the earliest.
"The education department has regularly been asking for school records and checking if teachers and other staff have applied for the cards but they haven't yet taken any major decision. I'm sure soon they'll stop salary payment if we don't comply," said Rekha Shahani, principal, Kamla High School in Khar (W).
While most schools were aware of this, some ICSE schools in the city told TOI that they are yet to receive any notification from the education department.
Poonam Jaiswal, principal, Lakshdham High School (ICSE) in Goregaon (E), stated that even though schools have not received any such circular, education officials have made it clear at meetings, that Aadhaar cards will be important.
"We have been informed that students who wish to apply for scholarships have to open a bank account and have their UID numbers in place. We have informed parents about it," said Jaiswal.
A government resolution dated April 18, 2011 had listed instructions for schools and colleges, and a copy of it was pasted on the Thane Zilla Parishad pay unit notice board, making it clear that teachers who haven't applied for Aadhaar cards will not receive salaries. Many teachers had protested and the notice was pulled out. A school had threatened to confiscate Class X students' board exam hall tickets if they failed to apply for Aadhaar cards.

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