Citizens right to greviance redress bill 2011 rte forumt

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Citizen's Right to Redress Bill 2011 - RTE Forum Response

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Citizens right to greviance redress bill 2011 rte forumt

  1. 1. Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Draft Bill 2011- RTE Forum ResponseThe RTE Forum, a broad umbrella group of all major education networks and agencies working on the Right toEducation in the country, broadly welcomes the introduction of this Bill and feels that it has several positivefeatures that can be tapped into for ensuring streamlining of the implementation of the Right of Children to Freeand Compulsory Education Act, 2011.However, we suggest some points for your consideration to strengthen this proposed legislation from theperspective of delivery of education in the formal system and in the light of children’s educational rights in general.Broad Issues. A critical gap of the proposed Bill is that the word redress has not been defined. This creates the possibility for ambiguity as to whether an issue has been satisfactorily resolved from the perspective of the complainant. The Bill in the present form does not give adequate focus to quality issues- with weight, size and frequency being under its purview. This needs to be expanded to include quality and other less tangible process centred indicators like discrimination and untouchability. Availability of teachers, functional toilets, instructional hours and eventually learning outcomes are not strictly speaking covered through the existing framework, but form the bread and butter issues for education delivery. The linkage of this mechanism with existing processes of redressal- viz the existence of the NCPCR and SCPCRs (National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights) have not been laid down. This would also hold for other quasi-judicial bodies- like the National Commission for Women, Persons with Disability, STs etc, not to mention the NHRC. The present document fails to provide for compensation for instances of violation of provisions. Furthermore, even the penalties imposed have been defined as being “lumpsum”. The experience of the RTI Act in making these provisions explicit need to be learned from and the provisions implemented. A mechanism for facilitating the submission of complaints by children needs to be put into force. One possibility is the designation of a GRO at the level of the school/Panchayat to collect complaint by children. Another is the setting up of a helpline for children to launch their own complaints. Special sensitivity would need to be ensured for the GROs to enable them to solicit complaints from children. Learning from the experience of pre-existing citizens’ charters, it would be imperative to ensure that there are common standards of quality laid down. Going from the implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act, there was considerable variation in terms of the quality of information provided from office to office for the same head. At the same time, given the multiplicity of institutions and departments across the State (eg different strands of schooling in a single state- eg. NDMC and MCD schools in Delhi), a process of setting of standards for equivalent level structures to ensure their substantial uniformity would need to be undertaken for each state. The RTE Act lends itself fairly easily to setting up such standards. The Central/State Commissions should have the power to review these and give directions, where required to ensure that the functions of the Public Authority are properly reflected in the charters. Need to specify that for district and sub-district grievances and complaints, the Heads of Department (HoD) would be designated at the District level. There is a clear danger of backlash against children in case complaints of malpractice in educational institutions are filed. A mechanism for protection of whistleblowers needs to be laid down and protection of minor children in the process taken especially into account.1|Page
  2. 2. The present document does not look at the mechanisms for ensuring synergy between concerned bodies for inter-departmental delivery in case a complaint pertains to more than one department. An example can be the delivery of water or sanitation in a school- something that may pertaining to both the education and water and santiation departments. Given the multiple departments involved in education delivery, the omission of a clear mechanism whereby synergy between departments is built is a major omission. Another related issue would be in terms of inter-state delivery in the form of provisions for migrant populations of children. Thus, a school may function within one State (source State) while majority of time it actually functions in another (destination state in case of migration of parents). Similarly, it would be essential to set these protocols in case of admission for migrant children. Consequently, a protocol for this needs to be looked at in the bill. An Independent block (or at least district) level grievance redress authority is required to ensure that complaints are addressed without all of them being taken up on the State level. Failure to do so, is likely to limit the number of cases filed, create an excessive backlog of cases and overall unnecessarily prolong processes The current Bill gives a month for redress. However, waiting for a month may be too late since the child would have dropped out of school in this time. A clear breakup of deadlines would be required to make sure that urgent cases are indeed handled with the urgency that they deserve. Special enabling provisions for persons with sensorial disability would, likewise be required. This includes availability of the Citizens’ Charters in alternative means, facilitation of submission of complaints in alterative forms. While the present Bill speaks about special efforts needing to be made for persons that are functionally illiterate, the need for special support for complainants versed in Braille and other alternative modes has not been incorporated.Specific Issues2.a. Action Taken Report. The present definition should be made more specific to say what the ATR would containin specific- viz. the orders given by concerned body for eventual implementation or the actual action undertaken. Itis recommended that this clause should furthermore be expanded to include a signed statement from thecomplainant that the conclusion reached was satisfactory and this submission be independently verified.2.k. It is recommended that pure private schools be likewise be included in the purview of the present provision.They should be considered covered under the section k-c of the present legislation. The reason for the same is twofold- while the delivery of education by private schools is largely in lieu of fees (if one ignores the considerablesubsidy in terms of land and other forms given to private schools) and because 25% of their intakes consists ofchildren from marginalized communities under the RTE Act.5.Obligation of HoD for updating and verifying the Citizens’ Charter. 4. Add “and ensure that a hard copy of thecharter is displayed in the premises of the institution”6. At what level of the Public Authority would this be established has not been specified. Furthermore, theminimum norms, standards and framework of functioning of the same would require to be laid down.6. 2. In addition to the adoption of electronic modes, it would be imperative to retain the systems whereby papersubmissions are equally facilitated.2|Page
  3. 3. 9. a. and b. The difference between remediation of a complaint (to be done in 15 days) and redress (within 1month) is unclear. This needs to be clarified and clear definitions laid down for both terms.c. This should also enter into the service record of the officer concerned. Where a GRO finds that there has beendeficiency, negligence or malfeasance on the part of the concerned persons, the same should be mandatorily bereported to the HoD who is empowered to recommend penalties.10. The clause should be expanded to state that failure to Act on a complaint by the concerned authority based onthe GRO’s orders within the stipulated period should be considered as amounting to refusing the request .Chapter V. In case a grievance has been rejected, the bill should lay down a clear protocol to ensure that thecomplainant is informed about the same. The reason for the rejection, the period within which a complaint can befiled and the details of the appellate authority need to be given to the response.The limitation for making an appeal of 30 days needs to be expanded.14. 31. The number of commissioners needs be determined based on the workload and work norms and cannotreally be laid down for all times to come.25. A clear definition of what amounts to “urgency” in the lines of the RTI’s definition of life and liberty needs to bespecified. Even in the case of the life and liberty wording, this has lead to multiple interpretations. Instances of childabuse, corporal punishment or discrimination (to just name a few), cannot wait for a month. A clear breakup ofdeadlines would be required. Furthermore, a similar life and liberty style clause would be required at the lowerlevels of the machinery- and not just appearing at the level of the commission.State and Central Commissions fail to specify a time frame for resolution of complaints.27, 40. The intent under these clauses is commendable. However, the wording can be misinterpreted. Suggestusing experience of the RTI Act to state that the “burden of proof to establish that non redress of complaint wasjustified by the GRO” instead of the original text. In the present form, the sentence reads that the GRO that denieda request would be expected to prove that he failed to act on a complaint. This opens the possibilities ofmalpractice in case of malafide action by the concerned GRO.45. It is unclear why the present sentence states that a penalty “may” be imposed. Stringent clearly laid downpenalties need to be imposed.46.2. These records need to be maintained not just on a website, but also on the walls of the institutions deliveringthe same at the grassroots level- right down to the level of the school.Section 51. The power to make rules should be specified in the Act, with the Central Government making modelrules for the States to modify based on their experience and context.Contact:Anjela Taneja, RTE Forum (anjela@oxfamindia.org), Annie Namala (CSEI) and Saurabh (JOSH/Delhi RTE Forum)The response is based on a consultation on the Bill held by the Forum with several of the national and Delhi StateEducation, RTI and Social Equity based organizations contributing to the preparation of the document.3|Page

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