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Babysana’s death and its questions

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Babysana’s death has raised a lot of question, not just on how she died but also on how things are in the hostels and private schools of Manipur. When it comes to the investigation of the case, another post mortem has been done and JAC formed on this matter is still demanding the state for concrete action. JAC has said that the government should hand over the case to CBI as soon as possible. The demand to hand over the case to CBI points to the fact that nobody has faith in the state police to work honestly in this matter or any other matter. Given the controversies on how the case was handled initially, the allegation that the family of the deceased and police were informed later, the mistrust of the authorities in the state on this matter seems justified. However, the demand for handling the case to CBI is not entirely free from issues. We have seen many cases which were given to CBI and were dumped into oblivion after the movement turns cold with time. These are the immediate matter concerning the death of the child and what we must do regarding the case.
The questions that we must pursue other than how she died are on how children of this society are doing in these private schools and hostels. These questions have to do with the implementation of Acts and regulations that have to do with private schools and hostels. When it comes to the regulations of hostels in the state, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has released a guideline for the regulation of these residential spaces for the safety and security of our children. Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights said years ago that it will also frame state specific guidelines on the matter based on the national one. However, neither the national guidelines were implemented nor the state specific one which MCPRC promised came out.  
To make the matter worse, the state does not have a regulation on private schools also. An act called Manipur Private School Act was passed in 2017 but the act has not been implemented. It is said that private school owners have opposed the implementation. According to Manipur Private School Act 2017, all the private schools must possess the registration certificate. In order for the registration to take place, the registering authority must ensure criteria lay down in section 2 of this act. Some of the criteria laid down are:
“There is adequate financial provision for continued and efficient maintenance of such institutions as prescribed by the competent authority.” This clause means that the institution applying for registration must show that they have enough money for sustaining the school. The clause also say that “the site for the building, playground and garden proposed to be provided and the building in which the institution is proposed to be housed conform to the rules prescribed.”  The school building and premises action to Section 2 must have “adequate facilities with due regard, safety and hygiene.”  Do these schools who are members of All Manipur Recognized Private Schools’ Welfare Association fulfill these criteria? Furthermore, the section also says that “the teachers, tutors and non—teaching staff are qualified, adequate and adequately paid according to the standards and norms prescribed by rules under this Act” and “ the fees to be charged is not disproportionate to the facilities provided and does not exceed limits prescribed by rules under this Act.” The act provides space for the government to interfere in how much the school management is paying the school teachers and staff and there is also a cap on the amount that the school takes from children as fees.  It is only after these criteria and many more according to Manipur Private School Act 2017 are fulfilled, the registering authority must give the registration certificate.
It is quite logical for the private schools to oppose this act. However, we must not be concerned of what the shopkeepers of education are saying. The question is about the children in our society. Now a young girl has turned up in a school premises in mysterious circumstances, couple of years ago a school boy was beaten to death because his father was unable to pay the fees.  There are many cases of corporal punishment surfacing in social and mainstream media in these schools. Given these, Manipur Private School Act 2017 and NCPCR guidelines for hostels must be implemented.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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