New Commissioner denies receiving any such reports
It is 4 AM, Tanveer Ahmad (name changed), a government employee, is waiting in a long queue outside the main gate of one of the missionary schools in Srinagar. In order to enroll his daughter in Nursery class, Tanveer has to fulfill all the prerequisites including the stringent age criteria set by the school stating ‘Children born between Jan 2012 to Dec 2012 shall only be eligible’.
Like Tanveer scores of other parents ensure they fulfill the criteria by any means even if their child does not meet the age limit. Such parents are ready to use ‘illegal’ means to alter the date of birth by paying hefty bribe to the ‘brokers’ at Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), the organization which registers births and deaths.
Sources within SMC said that many parents pay a large sum to get new certificates altogether with altered DOBs to fall within the eligible age group.
“This business of selling DOB certificates is in full swing during the admission time in major schools; for one certificate, people pay Rs 5000-10,000 to bribe those who work as liaisons between the parents and the ‘birth and death’ section,” SMC sources said.
“The parents want to show their kids younger or older by months or even a year or so to ensure their wards get enrolled in these schools,” sources added.
It is relevant to mention here that admission process in kindergarten of many well-known schools including Presentation Convent, Biscoe, Burn Hall and Delhi Public School is currently going on.
While speaking to us, a parent who had visited a missionary school recently to enroll her son said that she was surprised as some of the kids that were seeking admission seemed much older than the set age of 3+ years.
“I do not know how they managed but most of them had DOB certificates in accordance with the school criteria,” the parent said.
Speaking to us, Showkat Zargar, recently appointed as Commissioner SMC said that he has already received complaints about the entire ‘Birth and Death section’ and will take appropriate action in the next few days.
“I may as well change the entire section given the complaints against them,” Zargar said.
When asked if he specifically received any complaints regarding the ‘selling’ of DOBs and the corruption, the Commissioner denied coming across any such reports yet.
“People are telling me that the section takes a lot of time to complete the DOB registration process,” he said.
While speaking to David Tudu, PA to Principal Biscoe School Srinagar, he said that the school has laid strict guidelines in terms of age and only allow students who fall within it.
“Whatever applications we have processed so far, all of them have had proper DOBs,” David said.
We also spoke with RS Malik, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Srinagar about the strict age criteria set by some of the well known schools.
“No such direction has been issued by my office although these schools have their own norms to follow,” Malik said.
“We cannot interfere in the functioning of these schools as they have their own charter however I will still look into this matter,” the CEO added.