Over the past few years, asking parents to buy uniform and books from vendors who set up shop in school premises or the school's online portal has become a norm but the trend seems to be hurting both booksellers and parents.

The Bombay Booksellers And Publishers Association has sent out an appeal to several schools in the city . “Most schools are forcing students to buy from them. Due to this practice, very few people come out to the market to make purchases. Our business has taken a major hit. Schools are in fact not allowed to do this,“ said Narendra Nandu, president of the association. They have written a letter to the school education minister, Vinod Tawde and the commissioners of sales tax and income tax. “Schools are not supposed to indulge in commercial activities and by doing so, they are evading taxes and not following the state's rules or court orders,“ he added.

Some parents' groups in the city too are unhappy with this practice. “Schools are selling school uniforms, books, stationery at more than double the price. Although they don't mention anywhere that it's mandatory , but the modus ope randi is such that they prescribe note books with school logos, so that they are not available in the market. Similarly the text books are also made to order from their own publisher.Stationery too is customized and not from standardized brands. The costs run into thousands,“ said Jayant Jain, pre sident of Forum for Fairness in Education, an NGO. The group is planning to collate data of such schools and approach the Bombay High Court. Parents from several schools have complained to the education department but things haven't changed on the ground.

Schools claim the purcha ses are not mandatory and is only for convenience. “We have to develop a curriculum that goes beyond the textbooks and hence we need to pick good material that suits our needs. Instead of having parents run around, we are giving them a convenient option,“ said the principal of an ICSE school. B B Chavan, deputy director of education, Mumbai said that action will be initiated against schools who indulge in such activities. “No schools can sell anything in their premises. Whenever we receive complaints, we send out notices to such schools and warn them,“ he said.

TIMES VIEW:

Schools may be well intentioned in their efforts to sell stationery and uniform on their premises: it does spare parents the effort of going to the market. But that's what markets are for­and educational institutions are not supposed to bring the market into their premises or profit from selling goods. It is legally not permissible and it does compromise the basic objectives that underpin an academic institution.v