Private schools oppose Centre’s move to bring them under ESI Act

The National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), a congregation of ‘affordable’ private schools, has criticised the Labour Ministry’s recent move to amend the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, 1950 to bring private educational institutions under the medical care ambit, saying that it would force them to hike fees.

‘Schools under pressure’ 

“The recent move pressing schools to subscribe to the Scheme to Promote Registration of Employees/ Employers (SPREE) has brought the schools under pressure to increase fees in order to adhere to the government’s stringent norms and pay up the aggregated arrears,” NISA, which claims to represent 55,000 schools from 23 state associations, said in a statement. Kulbhushan Sharma, President, NISA, said: “The ESI Act, since its inception, was provisioned for labourers working in hazardous industries… There is no logical reason that schools and teachers be included in this provision as we are not engaged in any hazardous activity that would require ESI protection… The schools are in no position to pay the arrears retrospectively.”

Stating that ‘budget’ private schools may be forced to hike fees, Krishna Reddy, Telangana State President, NISA, said: “This amendment has been passed by the Central government without wide consultation. ESIC order is being calculated and penalty levied since 2008. We are forced to pay charges for the past eight years for services we did not avail. We demand the government authorities to not to bring the Act into force with retrospective date… And if the government still does not relent, we will have no alternative but to increase the fees which will adversely affect the poor parents.”

‘Meetings unfruitful’ 

NISA said they had several meetings with Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya on the issue but no solution had been worked out till date. It demanded that ‘budget’ private schools enrolled in the scheme before 2016 be exempted from paying the aggregated arrears, and schools enrolling from the present year be allowed to make payments from the prospective date.

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