Mamata Banerjee today held out the promise of salary benefits and pension relief to the powerful schoolteachers’ lobby, going some way towards wooing a group that had been a pillar of support for the Left in Bengal.
The chief minister announced that all teachers in Bengal’s state-aided schools would be brought under the single umbrella of the school education department, a move that will benefit up to 1.68 lakh teachers and teaching degree holders.
She also declared that retired schoolteachers would now be paid a “provisional pension” till a final settlement was reached on their dues. This is expected to end the long wait for pension now forced on retired teachers, prompting many to move court for redress.
“The modalities for implementing this are being worked out. We will soon announce when it will become effective,” a school education department official said.
A cautious Mamata herself set a three-year deadline for implementation of the entire package, which includes jobs for 70,000 unemployed Primary Teacher Training Institute (PTTI) graduates whose degrees are under a cloud because the training schools did not meet central norms.
To court the teachers’ lobby, Mamata had announced almost immediately after taking over as chief minister that their salaries would be paid on the first of every month, instead of by the middle of the month as was being done.
Currently, 3.1 lakh full-fledged teachers of state-aided primary and secondary schools are under the education department. The remaining 1.68 lakh to be brought in its purview include para-teachers, teachers working in Sishu Siksha Kendras (SSKs) and Madhyamik Siksha Kendras (MSKs) in the rural areas, and the PTTI degree holders.
The para-teachers were recruited to state-aided primary schools under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. Teachers of the SSKs and MSKs function under the panchayat department, which runs a parallel school education system.
As for the PTTI degree holders, Mamata has assured them jobs and absorption under the education department if they complete a bridge course as suggested by the Centre.
Teachers who are not under the education department now get lower pay and fewer perks. Full-fledged teachers of state-aided primary schools now receive a minimum monthly salary of Rs 11,000 while those in secondary schools are paid at least Rs 18,000. These teachers also get provident fund benefits and pension.
“There are many departments for schoolteachers. Para-teachers, primary teachers, secondary teachers, teachers working in SSKs and MSKs.... This has created a lot of confusion,” Mamata said.
“We have decided to bring all these teachers under the school education department so that they are under one umbrella. PTTI teachers who are eligible and have passed the bridge course will be absorbed in phases.”
She added a note of caution: “This cannot be done in a day. It could require six months to one year.... Within three years the matter will be settled.”
On pension, she said: “Teachers have to wait for years to get their pension. Many die before their dues are released....”
The general secretary of the CPM-dominated All Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association, Samar Chakraborty, today “welcomed” Mamata’s announcement but wondered whether the government would be able to implement it.
“This is a pro-teacher move and we welcome it,” he said. “But the big question is whether the new government can implement it. It will be an enormous task to manage such a large number of teachers, and would require a lot of money.”
Dinesh Chandra Banik, a retired school headmaster, said: “The initiative is welcome. Several thousand teachers will benefit if the decisions are really implemented.”
By stating that teachers of the SSKs and MSKs would be brought under the school education department, Mamata has also signalled the end for the previous government’s move to empower the panchayat department to set up a parallel education board.
The West Bengal Panchayat Board Education Bill had been passed in the Assembly last December and now awaits the governor’s assent. “It will now have to be officially revoked,” an official said.
Even one of the outgoing Left education ministers agreed that the scrapping of the panchayat board would be a good move. “It was basically done to regularise the services of the SSK and MSK teachers,” he said.
Source : The Telegraph.