Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Laxity makes Punjab govt miss out on funds

Navneet Sharma , Hindustan Times
Chandigarh , May 19, 2012

It’s a poll promise the Punjab government is finding tough to fulfil. The government has been trying to secure additional funds from the union ministry of human resource development (MHRD) under a centrally-sponsored scheme to increase salaries of schoolteachers appointed on contract in elementary and secondary schools in the state, but to no avail.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal took up the matter with union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, but the Centre has not obliged. The central ministry has turned down the state government’s proposal for additional Rs. 222 crore sought under the flagship scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), for paying its 15,000 contract teachers at the elementary level on a par with regular teaching staff.
The reason: the state government did not back its words with action. Badal had written to the HRD minister in November 2011 for funds for payment of salary to contract teachers ‘as per regular pay scales’ — a promise made in the run-up to the state elections —under the SSA and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). In response, Sibal said salaries for teachers were sanctioned under the centrally-sponsored schemes as per terms and conditions determined by the state government.
“In case the state government wishes to enhance the remuneration of contract teachers, appropriate decisions need to be taken in respect of all contract teachers working with the state government and not just for those contract teachers who are provided remuneration support from centrally-sponsored schemes,” the HRD minister wrote in December last year.
The state was also advised to issue necessary orders for enhancement of remuneration and then approach the ministry for funds for payment of salaries to contract teachers as per regular pay scales.
The state education department submitted a proposal in February 2012 for about Rs. 507 crore for salaries of 15,000 contract teachers under the SSA on a par with the regular staff with the monthly pay ranging from Rs. 27,000 to Rs. 33,500.
However, the state authorities did not submit the government notification on salary revision as per regular pay scales. In the absence of the relevant notification, the MHRD allowed salary at the existing rates of remuneration — between Rs. 15,500 and Rs. 28,000 per month — and not at the enhanced rates sought by the state.
“The Punjab government asked for teachers’ salaries as per regular pay scales, but was not ready to treat them as the state teaching cadre as a decision had been taken at the state level that no permanent structure should be created under the project. The state has to bear the cost of the regular teaching cadre,” MHRD sources said.
Though the state has missed out on extra funds, the state education department is hopeful of resolving the matter soon. Punjab director general, school education, Ashok Singla told Hindustan Times that the notification for giving salaries to contract teachers on a par with the regular staff was in the pipeline and would be issued very soon.
“Once the notification is issued, the MHRD will be requested to release additional funds accordingly. I’m sure the ministry will respond positively. We can give the teachers salary on a par with the regular staff, but cannot grant them regular pay scales,” he said. The Centre has approved a total budget of Rs. 1,066 crore against Rs. 1,676 crore sought by the state government.
The funds are given on a 65:35 Centre-state cost-sharing basis. The issue of salary of contract teachers of secondary classes under the RMSA is still to be decided.

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