A day after lambasting the state government for its performance in the education sector on the floor of the Assembly, prominent Trinamul Congress MLAs carried their protest to the university campus on Wednesday.
Saugata Roy, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay and Pankaj Banerjee joined the party’s education cell — the Nationalist Democratic Teachers’ Association (NDTA) — in a sit-in at College Square, just across the main campus of Calcutta University, accusing the state government for “systematically taking apart every edifice of the education structure in the state”.
Teachers from several schools, colleges and universities, led by NDTA chairperson Supriya Chattopadhyay, came together on Wednesday, alleging that the state government was making money by delaying payments to teachers of government-aided colleges.
“Irregular and delayed payment has become a norm with almost every government-aided college. Their teachers get their pay-cheques every three months, instead of the first day of every month, as is the practice followed in every other organised-sector workplace,” pointed out secretary of the organisation’s college and university cell Benoy Bhushan Chakraborty.
There are nearly 350 colleges in the state, most of which get financial help from the state government in the form of salary for teachers and non-teaching employees. There are more than 10,000 teachers, a large percentage of them in the city, and the government spends around Rs 200 crore on their salaries a year.
The practice of holding back the monthly salary and releasing it only four or five times a year (instead of 12 times) allows the state government to keep the money, and correspondingly, the interest that accrues, admit state higher education department officials. No teacher in the city or in the state is paid the interest on the delayed salary, and the state government pockets several crores “unfairly”, they explain.
The officials also admitted another charge levelled by the NDTA leaders. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has withdrawn the 2001 circular that forced teachers to stay back in college even after class. The state government implemented the original circular — asking teachers to stay back — but “forgot” to implement the rollback, teachers alleged on Wednesday. Officials admitted the charge was true.
Financial mismanagement in the education sector had led to a scenario in which the state government was unable to fill the hundreds of vacancies, teachers said. Roughly one out of every six teachers’ posts lies vacant in colleges across the state. The situation is similar in schools, while the government pleads that it does not have the funds to employ more teachers.
The demonstrators urged the state to change the school calendar from June-to-May to January-to-December. That would give students more time before the board-conducted examinations in the March-April season, they explained.