April 23, 2009

...But BJP stokes fee hike fire (ToI, New Delhi)

NEW DELHI : They were nowhere to be seen when the fee hike decision was taken on February 11. Two months down the line, all of them have suddenly become sworn champions of parents' rights.
Quick to detect the immense emotional connect the issue has with large numbers o voters, BJP candidates like Vijender Gupta, Meera Kawaria and Chetan Chauhan have been fanning the angst of parents and leading anti-fee hike demonstrations turning what till now was essentially an issue affecting just some sections of the city into a major poll issue.
Emboldened parents are openly confronting the school authorities without the fear of any classroom consequences on their children. After a string of protests in Vikaspuri, Rajendra Nagar, Paschim Vihar, parents again put across their resentment on Wednesday by protesting outside the Summer Fields School in Kailash Colony, Sachdeva Public School in Rohini and Mahavir Senior Model School at GT Road. The candidates not just participated but even spearheaded some of these protests.
The BJP candidates specially seem to believe in the adage `what goes around, comes around.' This probably explains the reason for their unwavering support to the jittery parents in the matter of fee hike allowed by the Delhi government. Vijendra Gupta, who is also the president of the Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh, said, "The parents' problem is genuine. Many of them cannot afford the exhorbitant school fees now. We have not taken up the issue because of elections but to help the parents. These parents are innocent anddo not belong to any political party.''
Gupta had joined the parents in a massive protest at Jantar Mantar on April 10. He had been visiting parents in Anand Parbat and Vikaspuri and also staged a dharna on the GT Karnal Road on Tuesday with other parents.
Chauhan, who is contesting for the Lok Sabha seat from east Delhi, also lent an ear to the parents complaining of unreasonable hike in the school fees. He said, "The complaints of the parents are completely justified. The school administrations have become uncontrolled because of the failure of the government.'' Chauhan had met the parents and schoolchildren on Tuesday during his padyatra through Jhilmil Colony, Vishwakarma Nagar and Vivek Vihar.
Congress candidates, however, maintain that the fee hike was imminent and it was unfair to link the issue with elections. The Sixth Pay Commission had increased the salaries of teachers, which caused the fee to hike. Ajay Maken, Congress candidate from New Delhi said, "I know that the fee hike has pinched the pockets of many parents. But any political party in power would have done what we did. When BJP was in power after the Fifth Pay Commission, it had approved 40% hike in the tuition fee. We have only allowed an increase of just 20-25%.''
Maken added that most people in his constituency were central government employees and their education allowance per child had increased from Rs 50 to Rs 1000 per child per month. "So they won't have a problem as their needs had been taken care of,'' Maken added. Mahabal Mishra, Congress candidate from West Delhi too said, "The fee hike is not an issue according to me. I would not like to comment on it.''

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