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The Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill to amend the Maharashtra Self-Financed Schools Act, 2012, which proposes to allow private companies to open schools, amid opposition by the Congress and the NCP.
The bill will be discussed in the Legislative Council before being finalised.
So far, only private trusts, registered societies and government bodies were entitled to run self-financed schools in the state.
The amendment bill was introduced by Education Minister Vinod Tawde.
It allows companies registered under section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, to set up schools.
It essentially means that corporates who are registered as non-profit firms can only open schools across the state.
"These schools will have to comply will all other rules and regulations like any other school in the state," Tawde said.
During the discussion on the bill, Opposition Congress and NCP raised objections over allowing private companies to open schools.
"Primary Education is not a business model, but it is a responsibility of the government. While we promote privatisation, this kind of privatisation in the field of primary education will destroy the education system of the state," senior Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said.
Former deputy chief minister and NCP MLA Ajit Pawar too raised questions on allowing private companies in the field of education.
"What we can say from our experience in the past government that such move will create enormous number of fake schools throughout the state for the sake of profit. This may further lead to demand of seeking a government bail-out package," Pawar said.
The proposed amendment to section 3 of the Act also reduces the space required to open a school in Mumbai to 500 square metres, and in other areas to one acre from two.
"In Mumbai, the space required earlier was 2,000 square metres," Tawde said.
"In such cases, we have asked the schools to tie up with local governing bodies to make arrangement for playgrounds. We will not allow any private company to set up a school without such tie-ups," he said.
Replying to the discussion, Tawde said all rules and regulations required for opening schools currently will remain the same.
"We are only introducing one additional entity, which can open the self-financed schools. These companies will strictly be registered as non-profit companies and therefore cannot be opened just to make money," he said.
The BJP is the single largest party in the 288-member Assembly.