LUCKNOW: There is a high profile event being organised by famous media house India Today at the City Montessori School in Lucknow to present sanitation awards in which the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, two deputy CMs, Vidhan Sabha Speaker and State Minister for Law and Justice, Mayor of Varanasi and film personality Shilpa Shetty are participating.

City Montessori School has been defying the order of District Magistrate of Lucknow for admissions of children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections for free education from classes I to VIII to its various branches under section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act 2009. 13 Valmiki children were admitted in its Indira Nagar branch in 2015-16 because of a Supreme Court's direction. But the school has not admitted a single child on its own after that even though orders of admission of 18, 55 and 296 children for the academic years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively, are pending.

CM's visit to CMS will provide legitimacy to a school which doesn't honour the orders of his government or administration and flouts the national law openly. Yogi Adityanath has said earlier that he'll improve the quality of government schools to such an extent that people will not have any need to get their children admitted to private schools. He has also said that everybody should get their children educated in government schools.

It is noteworthy that there is a 2015 High Court order of Justice Sudhir Agarwal in U.P. which has directed the U.P. government to make it compulsory for everybody receiving salary from the government to send their children to government schools.

The previous Akhilesh Yadav government didn't implement it and neither has the Yogi Adityanath government given any indication that it is serious about implementing it. Adityanath has only made a statement once supporting the spirit of the judgement. And he was not expected to support a private school so early on in his term.

Montessori school founded by Jagdish Gandhi symbolises the commercialisation of education in Lucknow, and indeed UP. Akhilesh Yadav government awarded him with the Yash Bharti award. After Jagdish Gandhi opposed the admissions of children under section 12(1)(c) of RTE Act in his school in 2015, the Akhilesh Yadav government also awarded his wife Bharti Gandhi with Rani Laxmi Bai bravery award. Was the bravery in opposing the admissions of underprivileged children? Now the Adityanath government also seems to have come under their influence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the government schools which are not being run well should be handed over to the private groups. It is not difficult to imagine that privatisation of education is a sure way of damaging the quality of government schools and placing good education out of reach of the poor child. The process of privatisation is in general anti-poor. The basic premise of privatisation is to carry out activity with the sole motive of earning profit. When schools will be run for profit making, as is already happening, how are the poor children expected to have access to them?

Section 12(1)(c) of RTE Act had opened a window of opportunity for underprivileged children upto 25% of class strength in private schools for free education. A local businessman and BJP leader in Lucknow Sudhir Halwasiya has also reportedly denied admissions under RTE Act in his school Navyug Radiance.

It is upto the government to take a stand on whether it'll allow private schools to have their way or will enforce compliance of Act by securing admissions for underprivileged children who too have a right to the same education as the children of the rich.

In UP corrupt politics has made an alliance with education mafia. And here there seems to be no difference between parties in government.

(Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay award winner, is based in Lucknow)