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RTE Section 12 (1)(c)- The importance of diversity at the grassroots level

Over the past centuries the world has undergone a drastic transformation as the quest for new lands and trade have forced people to confront vastly different cultures and ways of life. This phenomena was kicked into overdrive with the advent of rapidly growing technology enabling mobility and communication between members scattered across the globe.

Inevitably, politically bounded territories contained a number of different ethnicities and cultures. In states where divisive rhetoric was used to pit the majority community against the minority, violence and segregation often ensued. A prime, and recurring example, is India post partition. It can be argued that colonial constructs are to blame for communal tension, but the codification of identities is a process so ingrained in how we view other humans today that it cannot be undone. However, exposure to difference among us paradoxically enough shows us how similar to each other we really are, regardless of background, culture, or skin tone. Finding humanity within someone or some culture thought to be so alien removes the blinders of ‘the other’. This is imperative for an entire nations growth, as progress cannot be achieved unless all sections of the country are moving forward.

Social stratums in the past were defined purely across race lines, whereas now economic class is playing a greater role in defining social hierarchies across the globe. As the past century has shown us, neoliberal economic policies have served to mostly benefit the upper echelons of societies while the remaining sliver of resources are left to the middle and lower classes. With global inequality reaching unprecedentedly shocking levels, partially leading to the rise of right-wing populist movements across the globe, greater wealth redistribution and social inclusion ought to be paramount features of social policy; in order to avoid a violent social and political overhaul.

In India, the Right to Education Act Section 12 (1)(c) is an exemplary law that mandates private schools to admit children from economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups for at least 25% of seats in entry classes (nursery, KG or grade1), free of cost. These children will be provided free tuition, books and uniforms till the completion of Grade 8 and the private schools will be reimbursed by the government. While RTE Section 12 (1)(c) is a progressive provision that on paper has a number of benefits, the nature of the Indian state prevents them from being actualized. India’s government resources are spread too thinly across many fields of varying importance to ensure the implementation of such a reformist act, which leaves NGOs like Indus Action to fill the void.

This provision can have an immense impact for India’s future if implemented fully. Aside from sowing the seeds for a socially and economically inclusive society, it empowers more young people with the choice of career path. This will contribute to the gradual transition away from an agrarian economy, which India is currently very reliant upon and is the source of widespread grievances across the nation given the decline in the agricultural sector due to MNC’s monopolizing seed trade and the forces of globalization. Furthermore, upward social mobility will be a natural consequence of this policy, which will strengthen the middle class of India and allow more citizens to be involved in the democratic process. RTE Section 12 (1)(c) is therefore a bold initiative that, if implemented correctly, will enhance participatory democracy at a grassroots level.

Do check out the massive efforts of Indus Action to bridge this policy implementation gap!

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