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Mallikarjun Kharge writes to Prez Murmu against ‘privatisation’ of Sainik schools

Sainik Schools were established by India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru in 1961 and they have been the beacon of military leadership and excellence since then.

Mallikarjun KhargeNEW DELHI: Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday wrote to President Droupadi Murmu against the Centre’s move to “privatise” Sainik schools, and demanded a complete rollback of the policy and the annulment of MoUs signed in this regard.

Kharge said there are 33 Sainik schools in the country and they were fully government-funded institutions operated under the aegis of Sainik Schools Society (SSS), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In a two-page letter to the president, Kharge said Indian democracy has conventionally kept armed forces away from any partisan politics, but the central government has “broken” this well-enshrined convention.

“Having undermined institutions after institutions, in the grand plan of RSS to hurriedly thrust its ideology, they have dealt a body blow to the very nature and ethos of the Armed Forces.”

“Imparting ideologically slanted knowledge in such institutions shall not only destroy inclusiveness but also damage the national character of the Sainik Schools, by influencing their character through partisan religious/corporate/family/social/cultural credos. Therefore, in national interest, the Indian National Congress demands the complete rollback of this privatisation policy and annulment of these MoUs, so that children studying at Armed Forces Schools retain desired character, vision and honour required for the service of the nation,” Kharge wrote.

Kharge brought to President Murmu’s notice an investigative report based on an RTI reply, which claimed that Sainik Schools are being privatised using a new PPP model introduced by the government, and “now 62 percent of these schools are said to be owned by the BJP-RSS leaders”.

Noting that successive Indian governments have kept armed forces and its affiliate institutions away from the shadows of varying political ideologies, he said one would appreciate the widely accepted fact that this deliberate clear compartmentalisation was in line with the highest democratic values and based on international experiences.

“This indeed kept our democracy thriving robustly, even as regimes across the globe fell to military interference, subversion of democracy and martial law,: the Congress chief asserted.

He said that the central government in 2021 “brazenly” initiated the “privatisation” of Sainik schools.

“As a result thereto, Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed for 40 out of the 100 new schools. Based on this model, where the Union Government provides ‘an Annual Fee Support of 50 percent of fee (subject to an upper limit of Rs.40000/- per annum) for 50 percent of the class strength (subject to an upper limit of 50 students) per year from Class 6 onwards till class 12, on ‘merit-cum-means basis’. This in effect means that for a school that has classes till 12th standard, SSS offers to provide support of maximum Rs 1.2 crore per annum, among other incentives,” he alleged.

Kharge claimed that the report also found that out of the 40 MoUs that have been signed, 62 percent have been signed with individuals and organisations belonging to the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar.

This includes a chief minister’s family, several MLAs, BJP office-bearers and RSS leaders, the Congress president alleged.

“This is a blatant step to politicise the independent Sainik Schools–a preparatory platform which plays a leading role in sending cadets for the National Defence Academy (NDA) and Indian Naval Academy.

Sainik Schools were established by India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru in 1961 and they have been the beacon of military leadership and excellence since then.

“It is evident and therefore I ask, if this has been effected to ideologically indoctrinate armed forces at the entry level. No political party has ever done this, as there is general national consensus to keep the valour and courage of our Armed Forces away from partisan politics,” Kharge, wo is also the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, said.

The defence ministry last week trashed reports that the new Sainik Schools were allocated to institutions based on their political or ideological affiliations.

“Articles have appeared in certain sections of the press insinuating that new Sainik Schools are being allocated to institutions based on their political or ideological affiliations. Such insinuations are unfounded,” the defence ministry said in a statement on April 3.

It said a rigorous selection process was followed to finalise institutions to run the new Sainik Schools.

“The scheme for new Sainik Schools is well thought out. The selection process itself is rigorous, checks and balances have been built in to ensure continuing adherence to the objectives and strong incentives are in place to provide financial support to deserving students,” the ministry said.

“The political or ideological affiliation or otherwise of the applicant institution does not influence the selection process,” it said.

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