Hyderabad: Telangana government has come out with another G.O. (Government Order) on 28.06.2021 with another number (G.O RT 75) restraining the schools from hiking any fees for the academic year 2021-22. However, like all previous G.Os related to school fees, starting from one issued way back in 1994, when the state was united, this too is unlikely to provide any relief to the parents from the scourge of incessant fee hikes by private schools.
One of the primary reasons for this, among many others, is - the muddled framing of these orders. These Orders are so framed, with so many loopholes, that they are rendered completely ineffective & useless. In fact, many of them, like the present one, are so hopelessly worded that they end up enabling fee hikes instead of preventing them. Let's look at the case of a school in Banjara Hills to understand how.
This school was charging around 2.5 lakhs as the fees in the academic year 2019-20 but increased the fees to around 3 lakhs for the year 2020-21 despite a G.O. explicitly prohibiting such an increase. This was made possible because the G.O. stated that the schools could collect only "Tuition fee" for the year but nowhere did it state what comprises "Tuition Fee!" So, each school, as we would expect, took the liberty to define "Tuition fee" as it pleased and many of them, like the one at Banjara Hills, included even Transportation and Food charges as a part of the tuition fee itself.
The parents tried to reason out with the schools but the schools would not budge. The parents then complained to the government but the government would not act. And when the parents went to court, the court would go only by what's written in the G.O! Thus, the parents of this and many other schools ended up paying for transportation and food for the year, without ever having used any of them. And a G.O. which was issued with the express intent of preventing such ingenious actions of the schools ended up enabling these very actions.
Not that the Government or the Courts are unaware of the issue and not that they cannot prevent it. But, just that, perhaps, they have no willingness to prevent such instances from happening. Sadly, this is how the system of our land has come to work. Everyone knows everything – yet, no one does anything.
The author of this write up was a member of Prof. Tirupathi Rao Committee set up by the government in 2018 to study the issue of fee hikes and suggest a solution. This problem with the definition of "School fees" and "Tuition fees" were highlighted several times in the deliberations of the committee and ways of addressing the same were also suggested in writing by the author. However, as it happens with most government committees, the report of this committee too, never saw the light of the day. While an interim report was shared at least with the members, the final report was not shared even with the members.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation of Hyderabad Schools Parents Association, Telangana High Court gave a clear direction to the state government to disclose the contents of the report and formulate a mechanism to regulate school fees. However, for reasons best known to them alone, neither has the government taken any action nor has the Court given a date for hearing the matter again.
In the meanwhile, the struggles of the parents continue unabated – even in the pandemic times -despite more and more G.Os and more and more assurances by the government. And, if we can add – despite more and more directives issued by the Courts.
The author is an ISB graduate and entrepreneur managing his Industrial units. Ashish is closely associated with causes related to education, researcher, poet and freelance. He is a columnist with multiple news portals.