The Telegraph
Thursday , April 10 , 2014
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Decade decoder

Subhankar Bhowmik’s salary has doubled in the last 10 years. The state-aided schoolteacher has bought a car and built a concrete house. His biggest worry is the dip in the quality of education and he blames the mid-day meal scheme, ban on corporal punishment and the state’s policy of allowing all students to pass till Class VIII

Subhankar Bhowmik, 46

Place: Gangarampur, South Dinajpur, around 230km from Siliguri

Profession: Teacher in a government-aided high school in Balurghat

Education: MA in economics and BEd

Family: His wife is a teacher in a high school in Gangarampur. The couple have a 13-year-old daughter who studies in Class VIII in the same school where Subhankar's wife teaches

Do you earn more or less now compared with 2004? I earn more. In 2004, I used to earn around Rs 15,000. Now, my monthly salary is around Rs 40,000. The hike was because of the implementation of the pay commission’s recommendations in 2009

Do you save more or less compared with 2004? Of course more. In 2004, Rs 1,000 was deducted a month for provident fund. Now, my monthly contribution to the PF is Rs 5,000. I have also purchased a health insurance and another insurance policy

What extra things does your house have now compared with 2004? (Laughs) Now I have a concrete house after I took a housing loan. It is a three-room house with a garage. Earlier, we lived in a house that had a tin roof and part of it was made of mud, the rest was of brick

Do you own a car? Yes. It has been one of my biggest achievements. I come from a low-income family and my father was a primary schoolteacher. Things were never smooth in childhood because of financial constraints. I never dreamt of owning a car. I thought at best I could buy a second-hand car. In 2010, I bought a Tata Manza. I have to pay an EMI of Rs 8,000

Mode of communication to reach the workplace: I usually go to my school in Balurghat, 45km from Gangarampur, by bus. The number of buses has increased in recent years and the road has been widened. At times, I drive to school also

Which city do you visit? I have relatives in Behala, Calcutta. I go there sometimes

lWhich is the biggest change you have witnessed in your district in the past 10 years? Inclusion of Balurghat in the railway map in 2004. Before that, I needed to travel 16 hours by bus to reach the state capital. Now, Calcutta-bound trains are available

What is your mode of shopping? I prefer to shop before the Durga Puja. Gariahat in Calcutta is my favourite shopping haunt. I go to the local market to buy groceries thrice a week

Where does your daughter study and what are the changes you have noticed at her school? My daughter studies at Nayabazar High School in Gangarampur, one of the oldest and reputable schools in the district. There has been an increase in the number of classrooms in the past 10 years and drinking water and other amenities are available now

Have you ever encountered corruption? No

Is there any regret in your life? I don’t regret anything

What is your biggest worry as a teacher? The quality of education has taken a backseat. There is no doubt that the mid-day meal scheme has helped bring down the dropout rate. But of late, teachers and education officers are more focussed on maintaining the mid-day meal registers and getting grants. The state's decision to do away with corporal punishment has also affected studies. Teachers cannot maintain discipline and they don’t dare to scold the students even if their behaviour is unruly. There is a new system that ensures that students are allowed to move to the next class even if their marks are low

What is your biggest regret as a citizen? The departure of Nano project from Bengal. It would have ensured jobs for our youth

Are you happier or sadder now? Nothing of the sort. There have been developments in terms of road connectivity, telecommunication, drinking water and cleanliness. But the government ought to have done better to generate more jobs