Covid: Navodaya Vidyalaya staff prodded to donate salary to fund kin of fallen colleagues
Employees of the central government-run Navodaya schools have been prodded to donate two days’ salary towards a benevolent fund for the families of colleagues who have died of Covid or other causes since March 2020.
But many among the 24,000 teaching and non-teaching employees at these 600 schools and even some of the prospective beneficiaries have protested, saying it’s the government that should provide the compensation instead of resorting to crowd-funding.
N.K. Pahwa, deputy commissioner of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS), wrote to all the regional offices of the organisation on May 7 asking the school principals to secure employees’ consent to the initiative. The letter said the bereaved families would also be offered a contractual job each.
Since the employees’ response was not “encouraging”, NVS joint commissioner Sameer Pandey wrote to all the regional offices on May 27, telling them to ask the principals to motivate those employees who had not given their consent. The NVS runs residential schools, mainly for talented rural students.
A senior employee at a Navodaya school said the Centre should have helped the families with its own money.
“Last year, the government forced us to donate two days’ salary to the PM CARES Fund while the staff of the central universities and the IITs donated a day’s salary,” the employee said.
“Earlier, we had been asked to donate a day’s salary towards flood relief in Kerala, and we did. Does the government not have any responsibility?”
An NVS official said nearly 150 teachers and other staff had died of Covid in the past one year, and a few others of other causes.
With the donations, the NVS wants to create a benevolent fund and give Rs 2 lakh as assistance to every family. Last year, NVS staff had donated Rs 7.48 crore from their salaries to the PM CARES Fund.
“It has therefore been decided that as a one-time measure, the dependent family member/ nominee of the deceased regular employees will be granted immediate financial assistance, out of the contribution from the regular employees of NVS,” the May 7 letter said.
The letter said: “In view of the above, it is requested that each member of Navodaya Family (regular employees only) may contribute a minimum two days’ salary (basic + DA) for the above noble cause, on voluntary basis.”
An NVS official said the organisation had Rs 200 crore of unutilised funds left over from last year, and had received Rs 300 crore in additional grants this year. Besides, its hostel mess funds remain unused because the students are at home.
Altogether, the NVS has over Rs 1,000 crore at its disposal with which it can “easily pay the families of deceased staff”, the official said.
Subhank Singh Thakur, son of the dead NVS clerk Surendra Singh Thakur from Mandla, Madhya Pradesh, criticised the move for crowd-funding and the offer of a contractual job.
“My father worked his entire life for the NVS. The assistance should come from the NVS and not from contributions of other staff,” he said.
“I won’t accept the contractual appointment unless the NVS assures us in writing that we will be regularised when vacancies arise,” Subhank, who is qualified to be a teacher, added.
Emails sent to NVS commissioner Vinayak Garg and the Union education ministry on May 21 asking why the government wasn’t compensating the families with its own funds have brought no answers.
The Kendriya Vidyalaya Progressive Sikshak Sangh, a teachers’ body, has requested the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan to compensate the families of employees who have died of Covid, with money and a job.
A teacher said nearly 200 employees of the organisation’s over 1,200 schools had died of Covid.
An email sent to KVS commissioner Nidhi Pandey on May 25 seeking a reaction to the teachers’ demand has remained unanswered.