बुधवार, 2 जुलाई 2008

Schools bankroll parties- ‘Gifts’ flow from Delhi schools to Congress, BJP


Watch it, moms and dads, while you shell out big bucks to get your kids into Delhi public schools! Chances are the cash you are “donating” to the students’ welfare fund is going someplace else.
A plea filed by a social activist under the Right to Information Act has revealed that public schools in the capital have been making donations to political parties, possibly to court favour with them.
According to documents available with The Telegraph, the Congress treasury swelled by nearly Rs 3 lakh in the financial year 2005-06 and the BJP’s by Rs 75 lakh in 2006-07, thanks to “gifts” from public schools.
The information was revealed to Afroz Alam Sahil, who had sought a report on donations above Rs 20,000 received by parties. Sahil said he had the records only for the two parties and the list could be longer if other parties were scrutinised.
Two public schools have issued cheques with a c/ in the name of state education minister Arwinder Singh Lovely.
The money routed through Lovely shows in the Congress account.
These are St Lawrence Convent and Sai Memorial Educational Society, which have paid Rs 51,000 (cheque No. 144390, UTI Bank) and Rs 75,000 (cheque No. 099701, Indian Bank) respectively.
Lovely, however, said: “Party sympathisers pay donations. No public school pays donation to political parties. There is a difference between donating to a relief fund and donating to a political party. During a crisis, many schools and other organisations pay to the party’s relief fund of their own accord.”
But S.L. Jain, chairman, National Progressive School Conference, which has all public schools in the country under its ambit, was aghast.
“I am shocked. This is highly irregular. Public schools are not supposed to issue any cheques to anyone --- political parties or otherwise. If there is an emergency in the country, we do raise funds, but that is done after a proper circular is issued by the schools informing the parents.”
Jain said the money raised was then handed over to the chief minister’s relief fund or whichever credible fund had been set up for the crisis.
“No school can decide on its own to donate to relief funds or issue cheques to political parties. This is entirely unethical. One can easily guess why these schools need political patronage,” he said, pointing out that the schools were not among the most sought after in the capital.
Sources said the schools might be topping up party coffers to extract benefits such as land for expansion and to generally keep themselves out of trouble.
Other Delhi schools that have made payments to the Congress are:
a) Sarvodaya Modern School, which has paid Rs 31,000 (cheque No. 001719, HDFC Bank, New Delhi);
b) Bharti Public School c/ Ramesh Pandit, which has paid Rs 25,000 (cheque No. 011821, Canara Bank);
c) Little Flower Public School c/ Ishwant Singh, which has paid Rs 21,000 (cheque No. 340014, Syndicate Bank);
d) Principal, Kalka Public School, which has paid Rs 50,000 (cheque No. 774051, Bank of Punjab Ltd);
e) Kala Niketan Bal Vidhyalaya, which has paid Rs 31,000 (cheque No. 245651, Central Bank).
The Rs 75-lakh donation to the BJP has been made by a single school --- Akik Education Centre (P) Ltd. The payments are by draft, six of them for Rs 9 lakh and three for Rs 7 lakh.
The numbers of the drafts for Rs 9 lakh are 601394, 601395, 601090, 601091, 601223 and 601219. Those of the Rs 7-lakh drafts are 601393, 601092 and 601218.
All nine drafts give the same address for the school -- 88 Baldev Park, Shahdara (east Delhi) – but each has a different pin code: from 110032 through 110040.
A visit to the address revealed a three-storey building that didn’t have a sign giving the school’s name.
Subodh Kumar, who said he was the owner of the house and was in the construction business, refused to give details about the school. He said his elder brother ran the school and would be able to answer questions about any donations, but added that he was away on vacation.
The school is not registered with the Central Board of Secondary Education, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations or the Delhi state board, as their websites show. Jain said it could be a centre for private coaching.
None of the other schools or the political parties would comment on the donations or say what the money was being used for. Many of the schools said no official was present since classes were closed for the summer vacation.
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy expressed surprise that such payments were being made.
“I am very surprised and unable to understand how and on what pretext an educational institute would issue cheques to political parties,” he said. “This is akin to running a business in the name of education. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t recall our party getting such cheques.”

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