The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Asim melts teacher dues freeze

Calcutta, Aug. 4: The government today said it will shortly release funds to clear post-retirement dues of over 44,000 teachers who have retired from state-aided primary and secondary schools over the past few years.

The teachers, many of who retired as long as five years ago, are yet to get their post-retirement benefits — gratuity and dues under commutation of pension scheme — because of a freeze announced by the government to tide over a financial crisis.

“We have now lifted the ban and are trying to clear the dues of teachers as much as possible,” finance minister Asim Dasgupta told Assembly today.

Announcing the decision to ease the six-year freeze, Dasgupta said teachers who retired between January 1999 and March 2001 will be covered in the first phase.

He said the government has earmarked Rs 500 crore to clear the dues of teachers who superannuated from 51,000 primary and 12,000 secondary and junior high schools.

There are nearly 1.75 lakh primary and secondary teachers in the state.

According to government rules, a teacher working in any of the 67,000 state-aided primary or secondary school for more than 33 years is entitled to get 16-and-a-half-months’ salary as gratuity.

Officials in the school education department said on an average, the gratuity dues vary between Rs 1.50 lakh to Rs 2.50 lakh per teacher.

“Several thousand teachers are suffering as they have not got their gratuities. We welcome the government’s move to release the pending gratuity,” said Ashoke Maity, general secretary of the West Bengal Headmasters’ Association.

Though there was a freeze, the gratuity dues of a section of teachers had been cleared on special consideration. Dasgupta said 6,695 teachers received the benefit.

A section of Opposition MLAs demanded that the government should pay 5 per cent interest on the gratuity dues of teachers. There is a similar demand from various teachers’ lobbies too, but Dasgupta rejected the demand.

As for the dues of teachers under the pension commutation scheme, the minister took a tough stand. Teachers under the present system are entitled to commute a maximum of 40 per cent of their pension. The facility had also been frozen for the past few years.

The teachers’ spokesperson said on an average, a teacher could earn between Rs 3 to 5 lakh by commuting his or her pension.

The minister said commutation up to 40 per cent of the pension value will be allowed. Moreover, they will be permitted to commute only to avail of medical treatment or for spending on the marriage of their children.

Dasgupta said so far, the government has permitted 21,000 teachers to commute their pension.

Praising the Left Front government, Dasgupta said that before 1977 (when they came to power), pension and gratuity of a school teacher were limited to Rs 250 and Rs 2500, respectively. Now they are Rs 5000 and Rs 2.5 lakh.

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