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The teachers of the municipal schools in Bengaluru continue to teach students sans-salary

While most of us get irked when our salaries are delayed, more than 548 Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) school teachers do not get their salaries regularly. However, these teachers who go through a lot of hardships with literally no money, still make it a point to come to school and complete the syllabus assigned to the children.

Veeresh Naik, from Davanagere district, has been working as a teacher at the RT Nagar BBMP school for more than ten years. Every month he waits with bated breath for his salary to arrive and be made a permanent staff of the school, "The problem of irregular payment of salary has been there for a long time now. BBMP hires only through some agency. none of us are permanent employees. Crystal Infosystems and Services Private Limited is the only company that gets this tender every year. Some amount from our salary gets deducted for provident fund, ESI services and around Rs 1,500 — Rs 1,800 has to be paid as a commission to this company. We are not paid for the vacations as the school is closed. This year, We got around 50,000 pamphlets printed to distribute to every household and increase the strength of our school. We also spoke to BBMP Mayor Sampath Raj and he agreed to pay us only for April out of the almost two months of vacation."

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With their door-to-door initiative to invite children to school, the strength of this school has increased from 260 to 300. Explaining the hardships that he had to go through despite being committed to his work, he says, "There are times when I sleep at bus stops or a friend's house because if we do not pay our rents for months, why will the owner let us stay. At one point in time, I had to pawn off my wife's mangalsutra."

Earlier, the municipal corporation of Bengaluru used to hire teachers directly but the last batch of teachers to be hired was in 1996. After which, they brought a new law under the Karnataka Municipal Act which said that a tender will be called for and teachers can be hired through agencies. "In 2006, the BBMP had printed an advertisement in the newspaper that it is hiring teachers directly and I had applied for it. But there was no response from their end. With this salary issue, many teachers have left the job," he says.

The BBMP has 140 schools and colleges under its purview. This includes 34 high schools, 80 nursery school, 14 primary school and 12 colleges

To battle this issue which seems to have no end, the teachers have formed the Outsourcing Teachers Union of Bengaluru which has helped them assemble and fight for their rights. With the prices of even the basic necessities soaring high, their salaries are not enough to maintain a decent lifestyle in this cosmopolitan city. He says, "When I joined in 2007, the salary was Rs 3,400, and then it increased to Rs 4,500 and to Rs 8,595 last year. This year after we protested, they increased it to Rs 12,000 which is still not enough even to pay the rent, leave alone looking after the family."

Like Veeresh, Roopa N is also a teacher waiting for her salary to arrive so that she can run her family. She travels from Nelamangala, around 26 kilometres away from Bengaluru, "I travel such a long distance just to see to it that these children do not miss their lessons. Especially, the students in Class 10 will have their preparatory exams in November and we need to finish the syllabus as soon as possible and prepare them well for the exams so that the results are up to the mark. All we want is to be properly remunerated for the work we do. Unfortunately, we are deprived of that basic right."

Kathyayini Chamraj, an Executive Trustee at CIVIC, a non-profit organisation which has been working for the rights of children for many years, opines that the government can pay these teachers' salary instead of depending on BBMP. After all the Municipal Corporation also comes under the state government, "BBMP treats this as if its discretionary function and not a mandatory one. It does not take it as a duty and feels that it is doing a favour to these teachers. Teachers have to depend on their salaries to run their lives in a big city like Bengaluru. They do not have savings or funds like politicians or bureaucrats."

Harish Kumar who is the education officer at BBMP says, "I am new to this position and still need time to know more on how this department has been functioning till date. However, I agree that the same agency has been given tender to hire teachers for schools and there is no complaint against them till date."

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