When former Punjab cabinet minister Master Mohan Lal got his pension pay order from chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, it was an achievement for teachers in privately managed but government aided schools in Punjab. Lal got his cheque for as a retired social science teacher of Arya Senior Secondary School, Pathankot, before becoming the transport minister in the previous government (2007-12) of Badal.
Teachers of private schools, which are otherwise aided by the government, got their pension scheme restored by the Badal government after a fight of almost nine years. The scheme was stopped by the Congress government of Amarinder Singh in May 2003, causing resentment among the teachers.
The Badal government has restored the pensions with effect from June 1, 2003. Hundreds of teachers will benefit from the decision. Education minister Sikander Singh Malooka said the payment of pension and arrears would cost Rs.425 crore over a period of five years.
While Lal, as a powerful figure of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), played an important role in getting the pension scheme back for himself and other fellow teachers, their college counterparts have not been so lucky. Teachers of privately managed and government aided colleges in Punjab have been fighting to get their own pension scheme for over 25 years.
The Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers' Union (PCCTU), while welcoming the decision on school teachers, has demanded that the pension be given to retired college teachers too. "The Punjab assembly had unanimously passed in March 1999 an act to implement the retirement benefits to teachers of aided colleges in Punjab on the pattern of aided schools. The pension scheme approved by the Punjab cabinet on Dec 12, 2012 has still not been implemented," said PS Gill, co-president of PCCTU.
With the Punjab government not implementing the pension scheme for college teachers, some have gone to court. "It is pitiable that among the top 20 states of the country, Punjab is the only state which has not implemented the pension-gratuity scheme for the staff of non-government aided colleges. Even Assam has extended the benefits to the staff of government aided colleges," Gill said.
Over the years, college teachers have been forced to agitate for a pension scheme. The privately managed colleges get 95 percent grant from the Punjab government under a grant-in scheme. For now, college teachers can only hope that they also get an influential benefactor like Lal who can fight to get their demand implemented.