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26 Apr 2017

Partha posts request on school fee hike - Call to dialogue after chief minister prod

TT, April 25: Education minister Partha Chatterjee today said the government would like to have a dialogue with representatives of private schools in a Facebook post beginning with a request to "consider" what guardians feel about the recent "fees hike".
The post does not spell out that the proposed meeting would be on the fees hike by some schools, only mentioning that chief minister Mamata Banerjee has in recent times expressed her desire to have a dialogue with the representatives of non-aided private schools in Bengal.
"The date of such meetings will be communicated after clearance from the honourable Chief Minister," says the post. "In the mean time it is suggested to avoid road blockades or agitations. This will only dislocate the normalcy of the schools hampering the future of the students."
Minister Chatterjee's post is addressed to "Schools under CBSE, ICSE and government non aided schools".
Guardians protesting a fee hike by one school had disrupted rush-hour traffic on Park Street on Monday. Classes were cancelled in a New Town institute following another such protest. In both instances, the guardians sought the state government's intervention.
Asked about it today, minister Chatterjee said: "Go through my Facebook post in this regard."
He declined to elaborate.
An official of the school education department clarified that by "government non aided schools", the minister had meant private schools like Nava Nalanda and Patha Bhavan that are affiliated to the state board but do not receive funds from the government.
Private schools, irrespective of the affiliating board, are currently free to fix their fees.
The chief minister had said in the Assembly on March 3: "I think there is a need to do something to control private schools. There are some private schools that are very good. But some of them charge so much in fees and donations. I think this needs to stop."
She said this a week after holding a meeting with representatives of private hospitals over negligence, inflated bills and lack of transparency. That meeting in February had led to the state government coming out with the West Bengal Health Regulatory Commission and introducing the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017, which contains stringent norms for hospitals and proposes hefty penalties for lapses.
In a public meeting at Town Hall on February 23, Mamata had criticised representatives of private health-care institutes for allegedly inflated bills, among other complaints.
Asked whether Mamata would attend the proposed meeting with representatives of schools, the education department official said: "We are not sure. Mamata Banerjee had attended the meeting in Town Hall on February 23 because she herself runs the (health) department. But the education department is managed by Partha Chatterjee. We will be able to let others know soon whether she is going to attend the meeting."

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