In Punjab, migrant children are withheld from accessing their Right to Education
Suraj, a boy in his early teens, works in an iron factory in Ludhiana despite his eagerness to study in school. He was not readmitted to his school because he cannot speak Punjabi.
Our Community Correspondent from Ludhiana, Jai Kumar tells us, “Suraj’s family hails from Uttar Pradesh, and migrants in Punjab face a lot of discrimination from the locals. Thus, despite the implementation of Right to Education in the state, migrant families find it very difficult to exercise their fundamental right.”
After the Right to Education Act was passed by the Central Government in April 2010, Punjab’s Education Minister Dr. Upinderjit Kaur promised that within the next three years, every single neighbourhood would have a school for its children. The Right to Education website claims that Punjab, which has increased its education budget by 52%, ranks third in the Education Development Index today, after Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Children like Suraj have a different story to share.
People from neighbouring states are hired by rich Punjabi landowners during the harvest season because they are a cheap source of labour. After the harvesting is over, however, these migrants are considered redundant. Many sections of the majority population believe these migrants are a nuisance and are preventing Punjabis of their right to work in their own state. Due to this, migrant families face a lot of discrimination against them.
Jai Kumar tells us that when Suraj’s mother found out her children were not readmitted into school, she approached the school authorities. Instead of an answer or an apology, however, she was insulted for being a migrant. “They told me bluntly that if my children can’t speak Punjabi, they cannot expect a place in the school. I tried reasoning with them, told them that only if they are given a chance to learn Punjabi will they speak it. They refused to listen to what I had to say.”
“My parents were illiterate, but they strived to get their children educated. They did not want us to face the problems that they had suffered.” says Jai Kumar. “I owe everything I have to education. It makes one capable of forming a unique identity for oneself. One is not merely part of the herd, but can become successful, independent and respected. It is shameful that because of their discriminatory attitudes, people with power are taking away a child’s fundamental right to education.”