The Punjab government is all set to introduce biometric fingerprint scanning machines to mark the attendance of teachers in government schools of Punjab from April. In the first phase, machines will be installed in 900 government senior secondary schools at a cost of around Rs 30 lakh.
The plan is to set up the machines in all government schools of Punjab (nearly 20,000, including primary, middle, high and senior secondary schools) in a phased manner. However, the teachers have strongly criticised the move saying that it is sheer wastage of money seeing that schools are lacking basic facilities like benches, books and uniforms for the students. They have expressed that instead of spending such huge amount of money on biometric machines, government should first pay heed towards basic needs of the students who still study sitting on the floor due to lack of benches.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prashant Goyal, Director General of School Education (DGSE), Punjab, confirmed that machines will be installed in 900 government schools in first phase and will be operational by April as the new session begins. “We have purchased machines through Government e-Marketplace (GeM) which is a goods and services procurement portal run by the Government of India. The machines in phase one have cost us around Rs 30 lakh. Soon, all schools will be covered. In phase one, we are covering 900 government senior secondary schools,” he said.
Goyal said that move is aimed at making the state education system tech-friendly and laced with latest technology. “There is no point of still marking attendance on registers manually when a software can update us instantly. Also, it will bring in discipline and bogus attendance will be eliminated,” he added. Asked about the source of funds, he said that funding of this project has been done through funds available with Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) society. “We have some management funds available with RMSA which are being used here,” he said.
Meanwhile, teachers accused government of having its priorities wrong. “First, the government should get these machines installed at education department headquarters and other offices in Chandigarh and Mohali and district education offices before bringing teachers in its ambit. Why only teachers, not officials and higher ups should mark fingerprint attendance? Few years back, this project failed when machines were installed in block education offices. Even at other offices of education department in Chandigarh, they are lying non-functional…,” said Sukhdheer Singh Sekhon, president, Elementary Teachers Union (Sekhon), Punjab.
Sukhwinder Singh Chahal, president, Government Teachers Union, Punjab said funds should instead be used to get benches, uniforms and books for students. “There are principals in schools to keep an eye on teachers. What is more important is to get basic facilities first. At least give us benches and sweepers first and then talk about such hi-tech systems. This is pure wastage of money at a time when government says it has no money to buy benches and uniforms.”
DGSE Goyal, meanwhile, said that there is no provision under RMSA as of now to spend these funds on furniture. “We have requested central government to allow us to use money for buying furniture for schools, but currently there is no such provision,” he said.