School bill gathering dust

The Assam Corporal Punishment in Educational Institutions (Prohibition) Bill, 2010, is gathering dust, with Dispur failing to move it in the Assembly to convert it into a law. The bill, prepared by the directorate of higher education in February last year, proposes to ban corporal punishment in schools. It also envisages stringent punitive action against the guilty teachers. The bill was to be tabled in the monsoon session of the Assembly last year. The education department prepared the bill after chief minister Tarun Gogoi last year publicly decided to bring about such legislation, reacting to a UNICEF study which revealed that 99.56 per cent of students in Assam schools were victims of corporal punishment. Sources said that the government had not been able to take a final decision on moving the bill to the Assembly because of a lack of consensus on the issue of corporal punishment. A strong lobby of teachers also opposed the bill on the ground that such a legislation would encourage students to become unruly. “With the Assembly polls expected to be held in April, the ruling Congress does not want to antagonise the teachers by tabling the bill in the Assembly. The teachers are considered to be a solid vote bank for any political party and can play a crucial role in influencing voters. Till this date, there has been no plan of the government to place the bill in the coming Assembly session from February 1 to 8. Under such circumstances, the bill will remain on the table of the state secretariat till a new government forms in Dispur in April or May,” the source said. A state government official said teachers were scared of the misuse of such a legislation, as it would have the provisions like deduction from salaries of teachers for medical treatment of students, withholding increment or promotion and even demotion and dismissal from service. He said there were reports that the ban on corporal punishment would have an adverse impact on vernacular medium and government schools. “Since these schools have to accommodate a large number of students, irrespective of their social backgrounds, many of them are found to be unruly. Poor and illiterate parents send their children to these schools with the hope that their wards will turn out to be well behaved and educated. A total ban on corporal punishment in these schools might create chaos and demotivate the teachers,” the official said.

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