The common man is footing the bill for Sanskriti, one of the elite schools in the Capital, where the kids of top Indian bureaucrats and politicians study.
The school’s annual balance sheet shows how several crores of taxpayers’ hard-earned money is being given as “endowment” to Sanskriti by different Union ministries, including defence, finance and railways, and many state governments.
This flies in the face of the school’s claim that it thrives only on the fees paid by its students and society members.
Situated in Chanakyapuri, the diplomatic enclave of the Capital, Sanskriti School is run by senior civil servants and their wives through their NGO – Civil Services Society. The school has 12-15 per cent seats for students from a non-services background, which are mostly occupied by the sons and daughters of politicians, making it almost impossible for children from ordinary families to get admission there.
The school’s balance sheet for the financial year 2011-12 shows that it has received over Rs 25 crore under the building and infrastructure fund from different Union ministries, state governments, Reserve Bank of India and the city’s key associations, whose voice matters most in the corridors of power.
The annual balance sheet up to March 31, 2012 (updated till July 31, 2012) shows that while the defence and human resource development ministries have contributed Rs 5 crore each, the finance ministry has contributed Rs 3 crore under the building and infrastructure fund.
The maximum endowment – Rs 8.79 crore – has come from the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions. Even the cash-starved Indian Railways has loosened its purse strings for the school and contributed Rs 20 lakh towards the fund.
Interestingly, even Reserve Bank of India and ITC Limited have contributed Rs 1 crore each to the fund.
Among the states funding the school’s coffers, the maximum amount has come from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – both contributed Rs 25 lakh each – while Kerala and Uttarakhand have given Rs 5 lakh each.
Even a small state like Tripura has contributed Rs 1 lakh to the school’s fund.
Delhi Kalyan Samiti of the Delhi government has donated Rs 35 lakh, which may explain how Delhi’s ministers and politicians manage to get their children admitted to the elite school.
Spouses and wives’ associations of different services like foreign services, external affairs and IAS/ICS have together contributed Rs 10 lakh to the school’s kitty.
The school was also allotted 7.69 acres of land by the Union urban development ministry in the upscale Chanakyapuri area to construct the school building at a token premium of Rs 2 per annum as ground rent.
In addition, the ministry also allotted 1,500 square metre land on the school’s request. While the school society was formed in February 1995, the land was allotted in no time the same year in May.
Sources in the urban development ministry said that “the land was agreed in principle even before the society was formed”.
When contacted Sanskriti principal Abha Sehgal told Mail Today: “We have not been receiving any fresh funds from the government recently. What we got from the government departments and ministries was received over a period of time since the school started.”
The school maintains a twin fee structure for children from service and non-service backgrounds, who are categorised as civil and general students respectively.
A service class (civil) student in nursery is charged Rs 98,000 at the time of admission, while a non-service (general) category student has to pay about Rs 1.2 lakh for the same class.
This gap in fees continues in all the classes, says a service category student parent who pays an annual fee of Rs 65,000. His friend in the general category pays Rs 20,000-25,000 more for the same class.
The students of the school enjoy a number of facilities, including less crowded classrooms. The school has just 2,763 students in its classes from Nursery to XII. It boasts a centre for excellence, well-stocked libraries, laboratories, an auditorium for co-curricular activities, a swimming pool, a gymnasium and a sports field for the students’ physical development.
The school’s accounts book shows that the institution collected over Rs 1.74 crore as school fees in the last financial year. It has earned Rs 17.31 crore in school fees since its inauguration in 1998.
However, the school dedicates a part of its earnings to a social cause, running a parallel school called “Umang” for underprivileged students in the afternoon.
The school’s committee, comprising 20-odd members, includes Amal Seth, wife of cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, Gita Mathai, wife of foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai, and the wife of current home secretary R.K. Singh.
Secretary in Planning Commission Sindhushree Khullar is also on the executive members’ list, along with representatives from RBI and ministries of railways and defence.
Sanskriti School had refused to provide details under the Right to Information Act in 2010. It had, in fact, challenged the Central Information Commission (CIC) order, which had held that it comes under the ambit of the RTI Act, in court.
The school had also refused to part with details sought under a PIL. The court had then directed the school to disclose the details, saying: “Though the Civil Service Society, which runs the school, is an NGO, it is liable to provide information under the RTI Act as it received grant from the Centre.”
Delivering the order, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat had said: “The school fulfils the essential elements of being a non-government organisation under section 2(h) of the Act, which is substantially financed by the central government through various departments and agencies. It is, therefore, covered by the regime of the Act.”
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