The brutal death of Pradyuman Thakur, at an elite private school in Gurugram, had sent shivers down the spine of several parents across the country who spend massive amounts of money enrolling their children in private schools, hoping to provide the best of facilities with the highest standards of education for their wards. In India, there is a clear distinction between private and public schools in quality of education and facilities provided. Government schools have been dismissed by many from privileged backgrounds who believe private education would provide the appropriate platform for their children, preparing them to take on the world. Pradyuman's parents too had similar aspirations for their child.
Ryan International School which has several branches across the country is believed to be one of the most reputed, yet all reputation was flushed down the drain as the inside world of these unscrupulously run private institutions came to the fore. On September 8, a jolly Pradyuman who had entered school with smiles came out of school only as a lifeless body whose throat had been slit under suspicious circumstances. As parents rallied to protest against this heinous act, Ryan's internal inefficiencies in protecting their students came to the nation's notice. Yet, Ryan is only a single instance of disparity which has come to the forefront, there are a thousand schools running all across the country, that in the name of providing private education mint lakhs of money, yet fail to live up to basic standards of safety. A devastated father of Pradyuman had requested for a CBI enquiry into the incident which had left his family bereft of their precious son. Taking cognizance of this act, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), finally issued a notice on Saturday, de-affiliating Ryan International School.
The CBSE notice reprimanding Ryan, questions, "Why provisional affiliation for secondary and senior secondary level may not be withdrawn." Holding the school responsible for seven specific accounts of not following regulations, the CBSE sent out a strong message that irregularity of norms will not be tolerated under any circumstance. CBSE sent a show-cause notice on two broad parameters: first, Ryan neither filed an FIR nor did they inform the district education officer of the CBSE; second for outright violation of safety norms which subsequently failed to provide basic security to its students. The school will now be taken over by the Haryana government. This is a welcome move by the Khattar government of Haryana who issued strong sentences against the unscrupulous behaviour of authorities at Ryan. The school did not segregate washrooms for children and the staff, the washroom which Pradyuman used did not have grills, and could thus be accessible by anyone from the outside. The school building also did not have high protected boundary walls, neither were there barbed wires introduced. It is sad that we had to wait for the death of a child to bring into notice the abundant irregularities occurring in the most elite, private schools. While the government has taken the right step to de-affiliate Ryan from CBSE and hand over the reigns to the government, what is still amiss is broad spectrum policy movement to regulate education within our country.
The marker of a flourishing democracy is the quality of its public services: whether transportation, healthcare, or education. No citizen must have to resort to private facilities as a compulsion simply because public amenities aren't developed enough. A democracy can only prosper when all citizens have access to equal quality of services provided by the State. In India, it is a trend to reserve public services only for those who cannot afford the quality of private amenities. There is a clear distinction in the standard between private and public schools. When a Nation is not equipped to provide its citizens with the best facilities then unscrupulous mushrooming of private enterprises begin, who tap into the massive lapse left behind by substandard government products and thereby mint lakhs or even crores of rupees simply by providing basics which citizens deserve living in a growing democracy. While we are lost in the quest of thumping our chests with racing GDP figures, it is essential now that we pause and reflect on how to qualitatively improve our Nation so that our citizens do not fall prey to the private players' quest for minting money and providing facilities that do not ensure our safety.
Pradyuman's death is a horrid wake-up call and the country must gear up to uproot the problem from its very bases. The Haryana government's decision to take on the functioning of the school is a step in the right direction and is essentially a reflection of the fact that irrespective of how lavish private facilities may be, citizens can only be secure under the government's protective, watchful eye. We have been shaken out of a deep slumber of proliferating, irregularity, and money-making agendas.