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New Education Bill of the Government of Kerala and the Self Financing Colleges

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CAUGHT BETWEEN COURT AND THE STREET

The new Kerala Professional Colleges Act enacted by the LDF Government has brought in turmoil in the Kerala Education scenario. The declared idea is to stop commercialization and corruption in the field of education and to make higher education available to all irrespective of rich and poor. But the real fact is that they have brought in the Act with the avowed purpose of reining in Self Financing Institutions, mostly run by the Minority Communities. It invalidates certain provisions of the Constitution and undermines the communal harmony prevailing in the State. Apparently it is an education Law, but in reality it is an anti-minority Act, against which all the minority groups should stand together. The Government has been able to mislead the common folk and gather them against the self-financing institutions of the minorities. Even they have managed to hold many popular figures to stand with them in their WAR against the WEAK minorities.

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The new Act misreads and misinterprets the Constitution to deny the minority status of the actual minorities. According to the new act, minority status is determined on the basis of two new criteria: the ratio of minority students with those of other groups and the ratio of minority institutions with those run by other groups. It follows that the number of minority institutions should be less than that of other groups. It is absurd to demand that the number of minority students should always be below that of other students. According to this new law, minority education right is over if any of the two-the number of minority students or minority institutions- becomes equal to or exceeds the number of others. It is nothing but the violation of the right of education granted by the constitution.
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The Act is chiefly aimed at striking down the minority status of the Christians of Kerala. It means that the little freedom we have at present in appointing teachers and admitting students etc., will vanish if we succumb to this. Not only that, the law could easily be extended to aided educational institutions and also to other institutions like Hospitals in course of time. If Christians are no more a minority, the legislature can make a very restrictive law at any time.

On behalf of the Church in Kerala, the President of the KCBC and on behalf of the Inter Church Council had made representations to the Government. Also, through the CBCI, we have sought the support of the Hon'ble President of India and the Central Ministers. Further, we have moved legally for justice and to preserve our rights. All the more, the church leans on God.

 

MEMORANDUM ON BEHALF OF ALL LATIN CATHOLIC DIOCESES

Latin Catholics -�The most adversely affected group by the new Education Bill�

Most Rev. Stanley Roman who is Chairman of the Commission for Education, Kerala Region Latin Catholic Bishops' Council (KRLCBC), on behalf of all Latin Catholic Dioceses of Kerala submitted a Memorandum to concerned higher authorities pleading for the rights of the Latin Catholics of Kerala, which is a backward minority among other minorities and the most adversely affected with the new Education Bill of Kerala Government. The Memorandum is enclosed herewith.

Memorandum submitted on behalf of Latin Catholic Dioceses of Verapoly, Trivandrum , Quilon, Punalur, Alleppey, Neyyatinkara , Cochin , Vijayapuram, Kottappuram, Calicut and Kannur, of Kerala State .

The Kerala Professional Colleges or Institutions Act-2006, enacted by the Government of Kerala, has severely affected the interests of the Kerala Christian Latin Catholic community, by its harsh provisions and its anti-minority stand. The Act in itself is quite contrary to the noble intentions behind establishing the Unaided Professional Colleges by the Religious Minorities. The most adversely affected of the Minorities, are the Latin Catholics of Kerala.

Hence we, the members of the Christian Latin Catholic Community which is a socially, economically and educationally Backward Religious Minority Community in the State, submit before your Honorable office, the following points and apprehensions, for your kind attention and expedient relief.

 

  1. The Kerala Professional Colleges or Institutions Act, 2006 enacted by the Government of Kerala challenges the spirit of the constitution of India by attempting to define the concept of Minority, with impractical, unscientific and prejudiced criteria by which the present institutions run by the Minority communities including Latin Catholics stand to lose their Minority status, which, in other words, is Substantial Ultra-Virus. The determining factors like the number of Minority professional colleges and the number of students belonging to Minority community in comparison with those of the colleges or institutions run by the non-Minority community will result not only in the loss of Minority status to us as Christians, but will create more economic, social and intellectual backwardness among us as Latin Catholics as we are originally a backward community as specified in G.O. (P) 208/66/Edn. /dated 02/05/1966. Hence the status quo shall be maintained without harming the community.
  2. As the Christian Latin Catholics of Kerala form an economically, educationally and socially backward class, the educational institutions of this Minority community including the few self financing professional colleges, were specifically established for educating and uplifting the members of this community, which primarily consists of fishermen, masons, landless labourers and casual workers. The new Act makes no provision for alleviating the backwardness of this community, but imposes undue restrictions, even in the selection of students of our choice and administration of the institution. Due freedom and flexibility shall be granted to us on above matters for achieving our educational mission.
  3. Considering the backwardness of this community, a special package with regard to allotment of seats shall be granted to the self-financing colleges owned and run by the Latin Catholic Community of the state. Even in the direct payment agreement made in 1972 by the Government of Kerala and Aided Colleges , there was a special provision for Latin Catholic Institutions to have 10% seats in excess of even Minority colleges. Such privileges shall be extended to the few self-financing professional institutions of our community.
  4. The Act envisages cross-subsidy, by way of taxing the poor students of the community, to subsidize the fees of the general merit category of students. The poor students of our community studying in our institutions shall be spared from this additional burden by way of introducing the norm of equitable sharing of fees from all categories of students.
  5. Reservation of 12% of total number of sanctioned seats earmarked for other sections of the society other than the OBC, SC/ST and physically challenged category point to economic reservation and is not in tune with the provisions of the constitution.
  6. Although the Act was primarily intended for the self-financing professional colleges, it arbitrarily includes Aided colleges or Institutions in its definition of professional colleges. It seems to defy the direct agreement of 1972 made by the Government of Kerala and management of Aided colleges. A bilateral agreement cannot be unilaterally mutated without legal publication and proper consultation of the affected parties.

 

Profiteering was not the motive when the missionaries and religious leaders established educational institutions. Service was their motto, and still it is. Millions of students irrespective of caste and creed had passed through the portals of these Christian institutions and had attained covetable positions in the society, state and country. And therefore it is very painful to note that the Government is enacting laws to stifle such institutions and victimize even the backward Minority communities that catered to the needs of educational field, especially at a time when it was most needed.

Hence we pray your Honorable office, to intervene in this matter most urgently and help this community grow educationally empowered for contributing to the well being of the nation.

Yours truly,

 

+ Stanley Roman

Chairman, Education Commission,

Kerala Region Latin Catholic Bishops'Council

 
JOINT CIRCULAR OF ALL BISHOPS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES IN KERALA �was read in all churches during Mass on July 23, 2006

Main points

The nation can never ignore the contributions of Christians to the field of Education in Kerala. The selfless service of Christians was more for the holistic development of the nation than for the mere welfare of their own community. They judiciously blended spirituality and morality with education. Christians are granted the constitutional right to propagate their culture, faith and lifestyle, and this is mainly carried out through education. Thus, a special privilege and right-minority right was enjoyed by us. But now, the Kerala Government is trying to redefine the term �Minority' on the basis of new laws enacted by themselves, disregarding the supreme constitution. According to the new act, minority status is determined on the basis of two new criteria: the ratio of minority students with those of other groups and the ratio of minority institutions with those run by other groups. It follows that the number of minority institutions should be less than that of other groups. It is absurd to demand that the number of minority students should always be below that of other students. According to this new law, minority education right is over if any of the two-the number of minority students or minority institutions- becomes equal to or exceeds the number of others. It is nothing but the violation of the right of education granted by the constitution.

Undoubtedly, it is the result of a malignant hidden agenda to check the progress of the Christian minority. The Act is chiefly aimed at striking down the minority status of the Christians of Kerala. It means that the little freedom we have at present in appointing teachers and admitting students etc., will vanish if we succumb to this. Not only that, the law could easily be extended to aided educational institutions and also to other institutions like Hospitals in course of time. If Christians are no more a minority, the legislature can make a very restrictive law at any time.

Also, it is unjust to say that half the students of an institution pay the fees of their classmates as well. The Government should determine a justifiable fee structure if they intend to stop corruption. The church is always against corruption. The Government needs to take initiative in providing free education to the poor by giving scholarships etc., and the managements would definitely cooperate with this. The Christian institutions are not alien to charitable works.

The present Bill and the picture given by the Government that the Christians are having more educational institutions than other communities, would only breed communal spirit among the other religious communities of Kerala. This should by all means avoided. We are not for communal rivalry, but for harmony and peace with all.

The faithful need to stand together to fight against this unlawful and unjust policy, which is against the constitution itself. This is to safeguard our rights. We are proceeding legally to get justice from the Court. At the same time we are facing great challenges and threats of attacks from many sides. This is a time to stand united and protect our rights as well as our institutions.

July 23 rd Sunday is a day of prayer and let us hope that everything will turn out fine with the grace of the Almighty.

Negative reactions against the Circular

It was already anticipated that there would be negative reactions from the public on the Sunday on which the Circular is read. And it was only natural that these reactions were sponsored by those influenced by their party.

In some parishes of Quilon, like Holy Cross, Tangasseri, St. Rita's, Nanthirical, St. Casmir's, Kadavoor, Perumon Mundackal etc.., there were anti-church reactions against the Circular. Some tried to harass the priests and some others expressed their anti-church feelings by giving fire to the copies of the circular. Some came prepared with their own leaflets against the circular. It was not so difficult to identify them as activists of the ruling political party. In the evening of 23 rd Sunday, there were seen rallies in favour of the Bill.

VIOLENCE UNLEASHED BY THE LDF STUDENTS UNION

In a Democratic nation, here remains State Government and their Police Force, when their Students Union unleashed violence against the minority institutions, especially of the Christians. All through the State, the SFI made attacks, which were evident to be premeditated. Pushpagiri medical College, Tiruvalla, Mary Matha Engineering College , Trivandrum , etc., were attacked very severely. Buses were put to fire and administrative offices were destroyed.

Protest Meeting at Lourde Matha Church , Trivandrum

Mar Joseph Powathil, Moran Mor Cyril Baselios, Most Rev. Stanley Roman and other eminent church leaders expressed their protest against the cruel and premeditated attack against Christian Institutions. From Quilon, a good number of priests accompanied our Bishop to attend this meeting and to declare our solidarity with the victims of the attack. Our Bishop at this meeting expressed his sentiments and urged every body to stand united in this struggle for justice and to safeguard our rights, which were once and for all granted through the Indian Constitution. Please find herewith the speech delivered by His Excellency Bishop Stanley Roman on this occasion.

SPEECH of Bishop STANLEY ROMAN made at Lourde Matha Church

I speak today in a sad tone. The violence unleashed against the minority institutions while the issue is before the Court, is really a disgrace to the State. It is not fitting to Kerala, which takes pride in being known as a literate State and �God's own country'. It has brought in dishonour to the students' union as a whole. I could only pray: �Lord forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'.

These students who have unleashed violence and are speaking in threatening words are the children of Kerala. They are our own. To forgive them is our divine duty. We should be ready to forgive them. The ideal thing is to avoid violence and come together for a consensus through discussion and clarification. Violence in reply for violence would only lead to total destruction. Dear students, I advice you to seek better ways than violence.

Undoubtedly, the new Education Bill is an antiminority one that denies the constitutional rights of the minorities. Minority rights cannot be redefined according to the whims and fancies of the ruling Governments. The Indian Constitution by Article 30 has given the linguistic and religious minorities, the right to establish and administer educational institutions so that they can protect and maintain their language and faith, morality and culture respectively. We were seeking justice from the court when the Government closed their door against us. And for that, we are facing threatening and challenges from the Government as well as the students' Union. The incidents that took place last day explain that.

It is really unfortunate that they singled out the Christian minority institutions and unleashed violent attack against us. We strongly condemn this, for you should know for certain that we have not lost the capacity to react. We hereby declare solidarity to all victims of this attack. This is a challenge against religion, faith and the Christian minority. We consider this as a sign that the position of Christians who are only 2% of the national population and 19% of the state population, is in danger. We feel that we are now strangers to this land where we were born and brought up, and the fraternal relations, which we had nurtured, seem to have lost. Those who ought to protect the law themselves violate it and supports evil. This is mockery of Democracy. My friends who say that nothing will happen here if the minority institutions are kept closed for one year, should not ignore-that the Christian minority have played a vital role in the advancement of Kerala in the field of education. Irrespective of caste, class, religion, rich or poor, we had provided education to many. And now, to disregard all that and trying to eliminate us through evil means, is deplorable. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winner, in his article' Education; Indian backwardness and lessons of Kerala', says �The fast progress in the education scenario of Kerala, was made possible by the united efforts of Christian missionaries and the wholehearted encouragement of the royal families'.

We have sought the help of the Court, not with the aim of selfish profiteering but for justice. We fight for our poor people who belong to a backward community, and this cry should be seen as the cry for our rights. The sound of this cry will ever increase, like the waves of the sea, with more strength and sound. Church is the voice of the Voiceless. Who will speak for our people if we do not? Who will gain justice for them? We would never allow anyone to snatch away our minority rights.

Some of the popular public figures through some of the leading newspapers have said that since the Direct Payment agreement in 1972, the Government is meeting all the expenses of our schools. But the fact is that the Government provides nothing except the salary for the teaching and non-teaching staff. In the Government treasury, there rests, the lakhs of Rupees collected as admission fee from the schools. According to the agreement the Government should provide maintenance Grant, but for 20 to 25 years it remains unpaid. If the management begs at the mercy of the parents of the students, it is only because of the neglect of the Government. And added to this, even if there is vacancy, the Government will not permit to appoint new teachers. Salary will not be paid to the guest lecturers. But the monthly fee from the students should be collected and paid to the treasury regularly. Just staff pattern will not be allowed. Government thinks that the educational institutions need no sweeper or watchman. It is left to the manager to find somebody to protect the technical and scientific equipments worth lakhs of Rupees. Expenses for Electricity, water, library, laboratory etc are not paid. Every year, we need to apply for grant, but will receive nothing. The application and bill of the previous year should be submitted every year on September 30. All these remain in the office of the Deputy DCE.

The grant for the school is very modern. This amount will not be sufficient enough to whitewash even the compound wall. 1 Rupee and 63 paise, for a primary student and 5 Rupees for a High school student is the annual grant of the Government. Much of the expenses are often met by the parish and the manager to keep the school functioning.

As we know, the professional education comes under various councils of the Central Government. Had they ever curtailed any of the rights or withdrawn the status of any minority institution? The new Education Bill enacted by Kerala Government does no good for the proper functioning of the institutions.

The Government should come forward to solve the present issue through consensus and not violence. Rule out the move to define minority and ensure the protection of minority rights. Sustain the right of the managements to admit the students of the management quota. Fix a just fee structure and development fund. Give special priority and protection regarding fees and seats for the minority institutions. Minimize the judiciary power to intervene in the self-financing Colleges. Put off the hidden move to extend the new law to the aided colleges and other educational fields. Encourage the self-financing colleges with necessary support to make Kerala a land of progress. Praying to the Almighty for everything to end peacefully, I remain..

Reactions of Quilon Diocese against the Bill and the attacks that followed.

  The Diocesan Pastoral Council, KCYM, Women's Association, Kerala Latin Catholic Association (KLCA), Charismatic group etc. called protest meetings and expressed their anxiety and protest through press reports.

Priests' General Conference

All Reverend priests of the Diocese gathered together at the Bishop's House and had a thorough study of the issue, especially of the issue of the minority rights, which are at stake. Deliberations were made to fight together for justice and to safeguard the rights of our people. All expressed the anxiety of the difficulties in bringing the people under the same umbrella as a great majority are mislead by the Government.

Awareness programmes among the faithful

Copies of the Circular were distributed among the faithful in all parishes through the BCC units. Also special publications of the church like Jeevanaadam, Sathyadeepam, Viewspaper etc., dealing with the subject were distributed to as many people to make the people aware of the facts and not the false allegations of the Government. Besides, we are preparing a booklet with all our concerns regarding the issue and it shall reach your hands very soon.

Seminar for the KCYM members

A seminar on the issue, during the Annual Senate meeting of KCYM, was arranged, in which Fr. Joseph John explained the new Bill, the hidden agenda of the Government behind it and the huge price we will have to pay for it. At the close of the session, Bishop Stanley Roman addressed the KCYM members and clarified their doubts regarding the issue.

Discussion on the issue called by the Education Minister

Fr. Joseph John represented the Bishop and the Diocese and attended the Discussion called by Shri. M.A.Baby, the Hon'ble Minister for Education. It remained just as a discussion without any favourable attempt to make a consensus with the managements.

HOW DOES IT AFFECT OUR DIOCESE?

We have only a single Self-Financing Institution for the Diocese-�Benziger College of Nursing'.

The College of Nursing was established before two years, with the aim of providing higher education to able latin catholic students of our Diocese and thus to help our community progress in this professional field which will necessarily bring economic progress to the latin community as a whole. Until last year, according to the then rule of 50:50, out of the total 50 seats, 25 seats were given to the Government and the rest 25 seats for us, the management. Thus, each year the management could give admission to 25 latin catholic students. According to the new law, 85% of the seats should be taken from the Government given list (SC/ST-10%=5 seats, Backward class-25%=12.5 seats, Physically challenged-3%=1.5 seats, Backward among the forward group-12%=6 seats, Privileged-15%=7.5 seats, NRI seats-15%=7.5 seats, General Merit-18%=9 seats, Sports quota-2%=1 seat; Thus Total 50 seats). In this, latins who belong to Backward class have right only for 2% ie., one seat from the 25% ie., 12.5 seats of backward class. Remember that the College is financially run by the latin community with the intention to educate our students, and only one latin student finds way into it. How could we admit this? Then what is the benefit of running the institution?

The Government would say that we could also get into the privilege seats. But How? The list for privilege seats will be given by the Government in which students of all over Kerala state will be considered and from this we should give admission according to their rank. Can we be sure of at least one latin catholic student from our diocese to enter into this privilege quota? Now the picture is clear. We will run the institution and only one single student from our Community is sure to get admission in our own college . And naturally the question arises-Should we run the institution? From where should we get money to run it?

To find money, the Government says that we may take five times higher the common fees from the NRI students (The Government which has come with the new Bill to stop commercialization and corruption in Education is now advocating for taxing the NRI's) The NRI's have already filed case against this unjust law. When the forward class people are already above us educationally, economically, socially and culturally and still 12% of seats are set apart for them, it will only help for their further growth and the natural marginalization of the backward class including the latin catholics.

In short, the new Bill will only make our community (our diocese) more and more backward without giving a chance forever to progress.

I hereby urge all my dear people to stand united to protect our rights.

For further details regarding Christian response to the new Education Bill Please contact: www.viewspaper.in www.sathyadeepam.org



© 2005 ++ Quilon Diocese++. All rights reserved

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