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Indian Church-run schools face action for charging excess fees

Police in central Madhya Pradesh state arrested 20 persons, including principals of Christian schools
Students from a Christian school in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh take part in a cultural program.

Students from a Christian school in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh take part in a cultural program. (Photo staloysiusschoolpolipathar.edu.in)

Published: May 28, 2024 11:56 AM GMT
Updated: May 29, 2024 04:14 AM GMT

Twenty persons, including principals of Church-run schools, have been arrested by police in a central Indian state for allegedly charging exorbitant fees to students, in what Christian leaders called a targeted action.

The arrested are among the 51 persons connected to 11 private schools charged with flouting the Madhya Pradesh government’s guidelines on fees to be charged by private schools, said Aditya Pratap Singh, superintendent of police in Jabalpur district.

According to Singh, the case has been registered against 11 private schools, three of them belonging to the Catholic Church and Church of North India.

Five priests from Jabalpur diocese have been named but were not among those arrested on May 27. However, one of the priests was called for interrogation.

The arrested persons have been remanded to judicial custody.

“The police action is biased and targeted to damage the reputation of Christian schools,” said a priest from Jabalpur diocese who did not want to be named.

“Jabalpur district has 1,037 private schools that charge much higher fees than Church-run schools. But police found fault with only our schools that charge nominal fees,” the priest told UCA News on May 28.

Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janta Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has enacted a sweeping anti-conversion law.  

The state has witnessed increased harassment of Christians, including attacks on clergy, places of worship and educational institutions. 

The Catholic Church has nine dioceses in Madhya Pradesh and has contributed to its development through its educational and health initiatives.

District collector Deepak Saxena justified the police action, saying that the drive against 11 schools was part of a state-wide crackdown on private schools that charge excessive fees.

The collector, the top administrative official in the district, has asked the schools to refund the excess amount within 30 days or face administrative action.

The district administration has also imposed a fine on schools.

As per the law, an annual fee hike above 10 percent needs the collector’s nod and for a 15 percent hike, the sanction has to come from a state-level committee.

However, a private school is free to hike fees up to 5 percent on its own. If the rise exceeds the 5 percent cap, the school must inform the district administration.

Saxena admitted that many schools in the district are flouting the norms.

Christians make up less than 1 percent of Madhya Pradesh’s 72 million people, a majority of them Hindus.

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1 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS MUST CHALLENGE THE STATE GOVT! IF OVER A THOUSAND PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN MP ARE CHARGING EXHORBITANT FEES, WHY ARE CHURCH SCHOOLS TARGETED? LET THE COURTS COMPARE THE EXCESS FEES CHARGED AND MAKE A DECISION ON WHAT IS REASONABLE, TO MAINTAIN EQUALITY.
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