Amid PROTEST by the regular and contractual teachers of Punjab government schools since October 7, Education Minister O P Soni termed the agitation ‘uncalled for’. Teachers, under the banner of Sanjha Adhiyapak Morcha, are protesting against the regularisation of 8,886 contractual teachers of Sarv Siksha Abhiyaan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyaan (RMSA), due to which they will get a salary of Rs 15,000 per month, the entry-level pay, instead of their present salary of Rs 42,800. Most teachers are on contract for the past 10 years. The minister spoke to The Indian Express, justifying the government decisions.
Teachers across the state, especially in the Chief Minister’s home town Patiala, are sitting on dharna since October 7.
Our talks with the teachers are going on and a number of them have gone back to their schools, rather than sitting on dharna. Their fast unto death has also been withdrawn. We took a historic decision by taking 8,886 SSA/RMSA teachers on regular government rolls as they had been demanding it for long. They should be thankful to us for this decision, rather than protesting. Gradually this protest will fizzle out. Already numbers at dharnas are reducing with each passing day. In addition to this, 2,000 teachers have joined work, a few union leaders are not letting the others to join.
Teachers are talking about slash in the salary from Rs 42,800 per month to Rs 15,000 only. Your take on it?
It is not a slash. Rather we have given them an incentive of Rs 4,700. If a teacher joins on regular rolls, the starting salary is Rs 10,300 per month, but we have made it to lump sum Rs 15,000, looking at their work done in the previous years. They were on contract in SSA/RMSA and everything has been done in consultation with the teachers. I am surprised why they are protesting now. The probation period, which is three years, has been reduced to two-and-a-half years for them. Even if a PCS officer joins a government job, his/her starting salary is Rs 15,000 only. They will get all benefits of this job and moreover, it is not a compulsion for them to join at Rs 15,000. They can continue to remain on contract at Rs 42,800. Even in the past, many SSA/RMSA teachers had quit their contractual jobs and joined at Rs 10,300. So why a hue and cry now?
Why over 50 have been transferred to far-off areas?
The teachers, who are not reporting to their schools and participating in union activities, have been clearly told no work, no pay. When they did not relent, our next line of action was immediate transfers of all those who are not taking classes, rather forcing others to join dharnas. They can either be teachers or union leaders. So we have to act strict against the ones who take salary from the government and don’t fulfill their duties. If they will not join their new stations, we will think of the next action.
What is the mode of payment to the SSA/RMSA teachers?
The SSA and RMSA are the societies introduced by the Centre, under which 60 per cent of the salary is being funded by the Union government and rest by the state. However, now the Centre has told us that they will pay a lump sum of Rs 15,000 per teacher per month only. Hence it is a huge financial burden on us to contribute the rest. Still, we are not forcing all to join on regular rolls. It is their choice to remain contractual or on regular rolls. After two-and-a-half years, when the probation period will end, the state government will have an additional burden of Rs 400 crore in form of perks to these teachers and we are ready to bear it, however, they also need to get serious and give quality education.
Now teachers are pinning all hopes on November 5 meeting with the CM. Will you be part of it?
I am not aware of any meeting of teachers with the CM.
Teachers say the department is treating them very harshly.
We started with cordial talks and appeals, however, strict action needs to be taken if one flouts rules . Our primary aim is to make teachers available in schools and disciplinary action needs to be taken, if they are not teaching.