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The NITI Aayog in a letter to Tripada High School on Monday asked the administration to return Rs 84,000 collected from students as part of the first installment of fees for the Atal Tinkering Labs programme, which is free for students from Class 6 to 12. The school has assured that it will return the money it had sought from those who wanted ‘personal kits’ for their children. Mirror had on Saturday reported that the school had in a circular sought Rs 1,500 per quarter as fees for the programme conducted by Atal Innovation Mission under the aegis of NITI Aayog.

Taking cognizance of the same, Ramanan Ramanathan, mission director of Atal Innovation Mission had stated, “No school can charge any student directly or indirectly for usage of an Atal Tinkering Lab. The ATL facility is available to all students for free. Please bring any deviations to this to our notice and suitable follow up action will be taken.’ A NITI Aayog official told Mirror that a clarification sought from the school on Saturday had elicited a reply on Sunday, with the school clarifying that it had only sought money because some parents wanted ‘personal kits’ for their wards.

Rakesh Patel, Principal of Tripada School, told Mirror, “We have received a notice from NITI Aayog asking us to return the money to the students. We will abide by that decision and return the money in two days.” Officials also said that the school has been warned not to engage in such ‘commercial activities’ in the future and withdraw the earlier circular. Rakesh Patel confirmed this and said the school would abide by the NITI Aayog’s rules.

When asked if the Aayog went by school’s clarification that the fee was only for kits and not for participation, even when the circular was proof of the same, an official told Mirror that action is being contemplated and, if any was to be taken, would be carried out once the school returns the money. Any action would be taken keeping in mind the welfare of the students, the official added.

Written by Brendan Dabhi


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