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Lucknow's City Montessori School example of everything that's wrong with private schools

By Sandeep Pandey*

The City Montessori School of Lucknow figures in the Guinness Book of World Records for largest enrollment of 55,000 in a school, although it is not one school but has 18 different branches spread throughout the city. Its founder Jagdish Gandhi has won UNESCO Prize for Peace Education for promoting the universal values of education for peace and tolerance. He also preaches on TV channels.
The school organises many national and international level events including an assembly of mostly retired judges from across the world to promote the idea of World Government. Its academic performance is good in classes X and XII Board examinations as it weeds out the weaker students at Class VIII stage and shifts them to other schools. CMS is an example of possibly every kind of violation of norms that are required to be fulfilled for running private schools.
By not admitting 18, 55 and 296 children belonging to disadvantaged groups and weaker sections under section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act 2009 respectively in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 for free education from classes I to VIIIJagdish Gandhi has betrayed his anti-poor or anti-humanitarian character.
The Indira Nagar branch of CMS doesn’t have the required No Objection Certificate from Education Department and Certificate of Land from Revenue Department to obtain affiliation with the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations but has still somehow managed to obtain the ICSE affiliation. Legal notice has been served to CISCE.
This branch has been built without approval of design of building, without permission on a residential land, a demolition order against which is pending for the last 21 years. One of the three plots on which school is run belongs to R.B. Pathak, retired IAS officer, whose house was demolished to build a four storey school building without his permission. The school claims 600 as strength when obtaining the Fire Department NOC, 1,100 on its website and 1,731 in court of law when obtaining stay against demolition.
Only a few of its 18 branches have NOC from Fire Department, a mandatory requirement, remaining functioning without it.
The Gomti Nagar Extension branch of CMS, its latest, also has a case against illegal construction pending in Lucknow Development Authority.
The Jopling Road branch runs from a property belonging to a Bisen family. In 1982 Late VNS Singh Bisen gave the building on a monthly rent to CMS. Before his demise in 1992 he had already initiated a legal case for eviction of CMS after serving a notice to it terminating the rental agreement. Eldest son of family Dr. Sunil Bisen, a Neurosurgeon, is still fighting the legal battle in District Court. 
In 2015 High Court issued a directive for early disposal of case within a year and half. It is more than a year since that period expired.A court appointed official has declared the building unsafe but District Magistrate’s office gave permission to Jagdish Gandhi last year to carry out repairs without informing Dr.Bisen. 
In 1982 monthly fees at school was Rs. 50. Today it has increased by hundred times. In the same time period the rent has increased from Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 5,200, which is deposited in court now. Bisen family is deprived of its property as well as an appropriate rent for over three decades now. It is unclear on what kind of land certificate the Basic Education Officer has accorded recognition to this branch?
The most outrageous revelation is from Chowk branch of CMS. Its Principal for close to 35 years, Sadhna Choodamani, who adopted her husband’s surname Bedi after marriage, has issued receipts on letterhead of CMSof large amounts against loans, from parents and former students, taken by school on interest rates upward of 12%. 
RiteshAgarwal says his father had been giving loan to school since 1992-93 when he studied in class II at this branch. Total deposits of his family to date are Rs. 61 lakhs. Rajesh Agarwal’s family has given loans totalling to Rs. 25 lakhs, Vibhor Baijal’s family 9 lakhs and NC Rastogi 7 lakhs. Including the teachers who can’t speak for fear of losing job, the total amount collected by school is estimated to be in the range of Rs. 25-40 crores. 
Sadhna Bedi was expelled from school on 29 June, 2017 on charges of financial bungling and now Jagdish Gandhi says that since Bedi took away all the money people should file a case against her. The school submitted a complaint to Director General of Police but never registered a FIR against SadhnaBedi for misuse of its letterhead. People who are familiar with the functioning of CMS know that even a small decision of giving concession in fees to any student or which caterer will serve tea or meals in any programme is taken by Jagdish Gandhi himself. 
How is it possible that receipts of lakhs of rupees were being issued by the Principal on official letterhead without his knowledge? Jagdish Gandhi is probably part of the scam but has schemed to make Sadhna Bedi a scapegoat. He has most likely struck a deal with Sadhna and her husband Amarjot Singh Bedi, Principal of prestigious Colvin Tallukedar’s College of city, that in exchange for Sadhna accepting the blame he’ll provide legal help to her. But according to law of contract it is the responsibility of Jagdish Gandhi for all the money involved in this scam and CMS will have to repay all the lenders.
CMS was running a bank from its Chowk branch premises without any permission from RBI. It’ll also attract charge of income tax evasion.
It appears that Jagdish Gandhi has mastered the art of encroaching upon land belonging to others, building illegally without permission or various NOCs, obtaining dubious recognition/affiliation and running schools with mercenary objective. It is only a matter of conjecture of what kind of values children would be imbibing from this school?
When finally action would be takenagainst the illegal operations of CMS, which is extremely difficult as Jagdish Gandhi is known to extend favour by offering concession in fees to children of all influential people - officials, people’s representatives, judges and journalists - or hire ladies in their families as teachers, and the school will be shut down it would jeopardise the future of a large number of students.
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Contact: Phone: 0522 4242830, Mobile: 9415269790 (Praveen Srivastava). E-mail: ashaashram@yahoo.com. Source: People's Media Advocacy & Resource Centre (PMARC)

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