Curtains for idle posts in colleges

Patna, Feb. 13: The education department is in the process of rationalising non-teaching posts in around 250 government colleges in the state.

If recommendations of the panel headed by principal secretary, planning, Bijoy Prakash are to be accepted, several posts such as animal collectors, press fly catchers, gas boys, kalakar etc will be declared marnasan (dead) and there would be no fresh appointment after the present incumbent retires.

"The report for rationalisation of posts has been with us for the past two months. It is aimed at rationalising the services and recruitment, posting, qualification of non-teaching staff. But the report requires the approval of the finance department," said education minister P.K. Shahi.

An animal collector's job is to collect species for dissection in laboratories. But the UGC banned dissection in labs about five years ago, leaving them jobless.

Similarly, duplicators are making merry because duplication machines are now outdated. So are animal keepers because hardly any institution has an animal house now.

Bureaucrats involved in finalising the rationalisation report found the exercise amusing.

"We should have got a PhD for deciphering several posts. Many of us did not know posts like animal collectors, kalakar (graph maker for geography department), duplicator, sitar player (not the post of a musician), sample collector, glass blower and pressman exist," said an officer involved in the exercise.

The panel is reported to have suggested outsourcing of many of these services. The panel's recommendation would affect around 15,000 employees in the state.

The government has earmarked over Rs 144.72 crore this fiscal as grants to Patna University for payment of salaries to teachers and non-teaching staff. Out of around Rs 12 crore paid as salaries per month, the varsity pays approximately Rs 3.5 crore as salaries to the non-teaching employees.

At present, the university shells out around Rs 40,000 per month to each surveyor, photographer and sample collector who are in Grade III. The Grade IV employees like animal collectors and lab boys get Rs 25,000 a month.

Not many know how the irrelevant posts came into being. A few said they were created when several private colleges in the state were taken over by the government in phases.

"Whenever the governing body of a college learnt that the institution would be taken over by the government, it used to make appointments creating new and strange posts," said another official.

Several non-teaching employees admitted that many of the posts created then had become irrelevant now.

"It has been 20 years since I last saw the animal collector bringing frogs to the zoology department. I do not remember when the sample collector last went to an archaeological site to collect samples for the museum," said Nawal Kishore Mishra, a non-teaching staff of Patna University and vice-president of the Patna University Karmachari Sangh.

He, however, said the post of gas boy was still relevant because he has to ensure gas flows to the burners in the chemistry department.

Patna University zoology professor R.K. Sinha, who is internationally acclaimed as the Dolphin Man of India, said animal collectors were supposed to bring cockroaches, earthworms, rabbits and frogs for dissection. "But the UGC stopped the dissection in laboratories about five years ago under the pressure of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). So the animal collectors are jobless now. There is a post of animal keeper. He is supposed to look after creatures in an institute's animal house. But our animal house has become an employee's residence," he said.

Sinha was in favour of abolishing the irrelevant posts. "But the rationalisation of posts should include new posts like one for computer maintenance. Similarly, sweepers are required everywhere. My department's sweeper retired on January 31. Not even the VC has the power to recruit his replacement," he added.

Former MLC and former teacher Ram Vacchan Rai stressed that the rationalisation of posts should be done in consultation with academicians. "After all, departments like ancient history and geology are supposed to maintain a museum for which samples have to be collected. For years, there was no new inclusion in museums. The government must ensure that the students and academics do not suffer for the rationalisation," he said.

Patna University vice-chancellor Shambhu Nath Singh said: "With the advancement in technology over the years, posts like typists have become irrelevant. But there has been virtually no recruitment of non-teaching employees in PU for the past 20 years. The only appointments made have been on compassionate ground."

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