Kolkata, Feb 22: The West Bengal government of Trinamool Congress headed by Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee is mulling to shut down hundreds of schools run by social and educational organizations affiliated to Vidya Bharati, Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan – an RSS affiliate organization working in the field of education.
The state government has issued notices to shut some 125 schools, alleging that they were run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the state’s Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said on Tuesday.
According to reports, Chatterjee had said in the Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday that there are over 400 schools in the state affiliated to RSS-sponsored organisation. However, 125 of them have not obtained the NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the government. He said that the state government has decided to close down these 125 schools.
Outside the Assembly the Minister told journalists that they have identified 125 schools in different district, mostly in North Bengal, that are running sans NOC. Complaints are also received that some schools are not following the education syllabus. “RSS or no RSS, schools will have to follow certain norms, and we are looking into each case that is being brought to our notice”, he said.
The government has accused these schools of "fanning religious intolerance" and "deviating from the state-mandated syllabus" in public; it has used issues such as lack of modern infrastructure and educational atmosphere to try to shut them down.
Chatterjee said that the government will not allow any school to teach and preach violence or ‘stick wielding’. He had previously said some of these allegedly RSS-backed schools were spreading religious intolerance.
He said that notices were issued to these schools to wind up. Such complaints were received against some 500 schools 493 of which are under scanner, he added.
Meanwhile, Tarak Das Sarkar, Secretary of Vivekananda Vidya Vikas Parishad, a society that runs 12 of the 125 schools in the state, said that the government notice has already been challenged in the Calcutta High Court.
Sarkar said that the society had applied for NOC from the government way back in 2012 but the state government was sitting on their application even today. Vicekananda Vidya Vikas Parishad is affiliated to Vidya Bharati, Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan.
Vicekananda Vidya Vikas Parishad had started their schools in Bengal in 1975. Since then the government did not have any problem with them not even the Communist government, he said adding that the whole trouble started only after 2012 when the government amended the laws making it mandatory for all schools to obtain a NOC from the education department.
The notice issued by the state seeking closure of these schools does not indicate any problem with the curriculum, claimed Sarkar. The notices have only pointed out deficiencies in infrastructure such as fire safety, he added.
In West Bengal three trusts namely, Sarada Sewa Trust, Saraswti Shishu Mandir and Vivekananda Vidya Vikas Parishad are affiliated to Vidya Bharati. Together they manage over 350 schools in the state having a consolidated strength of over 60,000 students.