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The Rediff Special/A Ganesh Nadar in Chennai
Teachers slave without pay
May 17, 2005
Budget 2004-2005 had a special feature.
There was an across-the-board surcharge of 2 percent on all taxes, which was called education cess.
In Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, teachers working under the National Literacy Mission, a centrally-funded scheme, have not been paid wages for the last seven months.
There are 1,234 teachers languishing without pay.
And calling it pay is itself a sin, because it's more like slave wages.
The lowest grade teacher is paid Rs 500 per month, and a middle grade teacher earns about Rs 700 per month.
The highest earning teacher gets around Rs 1,200 per month.
All this is below the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act.
The NLM was started a few years ago with the aim of making everyone outside the school system literate.
Three books called primers were introduced.
If the individual got through all the three books, he would know as much as a normal student who had passed Class III in a regular school.
In Tamil Nadu, the NLM is knows as Arivuoli Aykkam.
Which literally means 'one who enlightens the intellect'.
The NLM had divided the scheme into three phases.
The first phase was called the Total Literacy Campaign, which was to last for a year.
The next phase was called the Post Literacy Campaign, also for a year.
The last phase was called Continuing Education, and was to last for five years.
Right now, the second year of the last phase is going on.
The CE is sustained by making the neo-literates read regularly.
For this, the NLM had started libraries in all their literacy centres.
There are 617 centres in Tuticorin district.
The Tata Consultancy Services has produced a CD to teach Tamil. TCS has also donated 20 computers to the NLM in Tuticorin.
In the absence of funds from the Centre for the last seven months, the bureaucrats in Tuticorin manage with state funds meant for other projects.
There are almost 3,000 self-help groups in this district.
Grants meant for them are channelised through NLM teachers.
Under the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana, 50 buildings were built at a cost of Rs 80,000 each, which are being used by the NLM.
The Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Housing and Development Corporation is another Tamil Nadu government agency, which provides vocational training to the youth.
All THADCO training programmes are re-routed through NLM workers.
The programmes include desktop publishing, tailoring, typing, two wheeler mechanics and other such courses.
NLM workers also help people get loans after training.
The Child Labour Eradication Programme, which gets Rs 12 lakh per year, also functions through the NLM network.
NLM funds are also used there.
All the funds that have been utilised for the NLM have paid for other expenses and not the wages of the workers.
NLM teachers recently went around villages, advising people to build toilets in their homes.
They also helped them build the toilets through a state government subsidy.
If you visit the NLM library in Porayur village, you will be surprised at how clean and well maintained it is.
The shelves are stacked with books in Tamil, and a few toys for the children playing outside the library.
They come in occasionally to take the toys they want.
Teacher Annalakshmi tells them to return them when they finish playing.
Senior teacher Vijaya is writing the monthly report to submit to the local Block Development Office.
The local BDO has a supervisor who visits these libraries for periodical checks.
Why have the teachers of the NLM not been paid wages for the last seven months?
The answer lies in what happened in the first phase of the exercise.
The TLC was not completed in a year.
When it got further delayed, the authorities in Delhi told them to complete it, whatever the timeframe.
It was finally completed in three years.
The second phase, PLC, was completed in the allotted time of one year.
Now, it is time for the grant for the first year of the final phase to come in.
The central government has refused to release this grant.
The reason they give is that the NLM drew salaries for three years in the first phase, and the salaries are only for a year.
So, they must return the salaries they drew for the excess two years, which works out to Rs 12,41,332.
The NLM has already returned Rs 154,000, and are in the process of returning Rs 10,87,332.
District coordinator S Gunasekharan laments that the central government has conveniently forgotten that it had said that the first phase should be completed in whatever time it takes.
District Project Officer A Natarajan says finally there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the teachers would be paid shortly.
When they return the money the central government demands, they will get a grant of Rs 1,07,00,394.
The central government agency they are dealing with is:
Director Irina Garg
Department of Elementary Education and Literacy
Ministry of Human Resources Development
New Delhi-110 001.
While the state and the central government fight over funds, the NLM teachers in Tuticorin district go from house to house in the hot summer taking part in a census exercise.