After months of speculation and indications, the inevitable happened on Wednesday as the state government shut down the Maharashtra state institute of education technology, popularly known as Balchitrawani. A government resolution (GR) was issued in this regard on May 31 and it came into immediate effect. Around 33 employees were employed with the Balchitrawani, most of whom have served for more than 25 years in government service.
The body that developed educational programmes will be replaced with E-Balbharati, where digital content will be created, said the GR. It will now develop virtual classrooms and audio-visual textbook lessons on a specially designed web portal for Classes I to XII.
Meanwhile, at the institute, which had been in a state of neglect for last several years, employees were seen huddled in small rooms waiting for the official notice, that had not been served until 5 pm, to reach them. Stating they had indications of this event for last few months, the employees said the suddenness of the decision has taken them by surprise.
“Until a few days ago, we were working on creating teacher training videos and content for the Std 7 syllabus, which has been revised. When they stopped it a few days ago, we had an indication since we had come to know of a meeting of the board where the decision to discontinue was taken this month. But the least they could have done was given a few weeks’ notice, talked to employees who are serving here since three decades,” said one of the employees serving since 32years.
A Class IV employee, who was transferred to Balchitrawani from his government job in Mumbai in the 90’s and is two years away from retirement, was close to tears. “I don’t know what kind of benefits we will get, till now seniors have not spoken to me,” the employee said.
Until December 2002, Balchitrawani, which started on January 27, 1984, was funded by the Union government. In January 2003, the Centre asked the state to bear the expenses of the institute while the state expressed its inability to do so. And that was, employees said, when the downfall of the institute began. “After that things started going downhill. Projects dwindled, people retired or left and posts remained vacant. From 140 employees, we came down to 33 employees as of date,” said another employee. Balchitrawani had developed around 6,000 learning programmes since 1986, which until July 2012, Doordarshan would telecast for free. In 2012, Doordarshan decided to charge for telecasting audio-video programmes of Balchitrawani. Since the state lacked funds, it sought help from the Centre. After no help came in, the institute’s programmes were stopped completely in February 2014 and the production work came to a halt.