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Bengal wakes up to teacher drought

Calcutta, Oct. 1: Ending an eight-year freeze, the government has decided to create 450 teaching posts in colleges across the state.

The proposal will be placed before the cabinet for approval on Tuesday. It will come as a relief to 332 state-aided colleges, suffering from a severe shortage of teaching staff. The posts are to be created in the general and honours undergraduate courses.

'A large number of colleges receiving government grants to pay teachers' salaries are reeling under acute scarcity of staff for nearly a decade after the state government imposed an embargo on new teaching posts for undergraduate colleges. We are happy the government has woken up to the problem,' said Ranajit Basu, the general secretary of the West Bengal Principals' Council.

Many colleges have started new courses over the past five years. But 'many of these courses do not even have a single full-time teacher because the government has not sanctioned teaching posts for these subjects. As a result, most of the courses have to be taught by part-time teachers,' a city college principal said.

This apart, 31 new colleges have been set up between 1997 and 2003. But most of them have not been sanctioned any teaching posts.

Of the nearly 339 state-aided colleges, 332 receive funds for teachers' salaries under the Pay Packet Scheme introduced in 1978. About 12,000 teachers are covered under the scheme, for which the government has allotted Rs 296 crore for 2003-04. It will have to spend another Rs 6 crore a year after teachers are appointed to the proposed 450 posts.

The freeze on teaching posts under the scheme was imposed in 1996 after the Centre's decision to curtail funds for higher education led to a cash crunch.

The scale of salary recommended by the University Grants Commission (UGC) will be provided to teachers appointed to the proposed posts.

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