Published: 03rd December 2019
Shortchanged for years: Literate Kerala's preraks to go on statewide strike from Dec 5
While all of them will abstain from their duties from December 5, they will begin staging an indefinite protest from December 11
Asha* joined the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority as a Nodal Prerak in 1998, for an honorarium of Rs 700 a month. As the years passed, this was subsequently raised to Rs 3,800 in 2016. Much to her and fellow preraks' surprise, their honorarium was hiked by around 300 per cent the following year. Little did they know that their happiness was shortlived. The preraks, the literacy mission employees who identify potential students and get them registered for examinations, apparently received the promised new remuneration only for the first three months of 2017. Many of them have been allegedly receiving only 30 to 40 per cent of the amount since then.
This is one of the reasons why around 2,000 preraks from all over Kerala, including Asha are planning to stage an indefinite protest in front of the Kerala Government Secretariat. While the preraks will abstain from their duties from December 5, the protest will begin on December 11. "We want our promised honorariums to be disbursed on time. It's been years since we received the whole amount. We will protest until all of our issues are solved. There is no going back," says Asha.
An order released by the Kerala Government's General Education Department on January 7, 2017 says that all the nodal preraks in the state are eleigible to receive a remuneration of Rs 15,000 per month or a per diem of Rs 500. At the same time, the preraks are eligible to receive Rs 12,000 per month or a Rs 400 a day and assistant preraks are to receive Rs 10,500 per day or Rs 350 a day.
"Three months later, we were told that we wouldn't receive any money for the holidays marked on the calendar. However, since then, we haven't been receiving the remuneration that we are supposed to get," she says. "For instance, in September, we worked for 18 days, which meant that I am eligible to receive a remuneration of Rs 9,000. But, only Rs 3,200 was transferred to my account," she adds.
Someone who joined KSLMA in 2002 as a prerak, Reena* is eligible for a monthly remuneration of Rs 12,000. However, she says that she only received somewhere around Rs 2,500 the previous month. "This is my family's only source of income in most months. We have to manage all the expenses with this money," she says. "Many times, we've been told by the authorities that our sole motive must be service and shouldn't expect a profit out of this. We're more than happy to serve and get people educated. But what about our survival? We don't even have the time to go for an alternate job," she adds.
Preraks also say that each of them has to get at least 25 students registered to write the class X equivalency examination, 25 to write the class XII equivalency, 20 to write the class VII equivalency, 10 to write the class IV equivalency and 50 to qualify the basic literacy test, in an academic year. "In case we fail to achieve this target, our remunerations can be slashed by up to 60 per cent. Now, this target is unrealistic because every year, fewer students register to write these exams. Most people from the younger generation have already been to school," says Reena.
"We're also supposed to file our daily performance reports online. Our centres are not equipped with computers with internet connections. So, most of us are forced to go to internet cafes or buy smartphones. This is an added burden, considering most of us come from really poor backgrounds," she says. "A failure to file the report leads to us losing a day's money," she adds.
The KSLMA authorities however denied all the claims made by the preraks. "Their allegations are all wrong," Dr P S Sreekala, Director, KSLMA. "There is no delay in paying their remunerations. Everyone is receiving the right amount on time," she adds.