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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Likely Delay Due To Elections

NEW DELHI: The model code of conduct for elections is set to derail education minister Arjun Singh’s plans to announce a raise for university and college teachers by Diwali.
Top officials in the ministry went into a huddle today to discuss the likely delay amid fears that it could hurt the UPA in the elections.
On October 8, Singh had asked his department to finalise the pay hikes proposed for over five lakh college and university teachers in time for Diwali.
But any announcement of a raise now will be described by the Opposition as “allurement”, illegal when the model code of conduct is in force, officials said.
The model code came into effect today when elections to five states — Delhi, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — were announced. It will remain in force till December 4, the last day of polling.
Singh was hauled up by the Election Commission in 2006 for promising OBC quotas in central higher education institutions just ahead of state polls that year. He is unlikely to risk a repeat, sources said.
A University Grants Commission pay panel headed by G.K. Chadha had earlier this month recommended pay hikes ranging from 75 per cent to over 100 per cent for teachers. The recommendations have been accepted by the UGC and the ministry is finalising them, the sources said.
“But now, even if we finalise the salary hikes, we will in all probability be unable to implement the raise till December 4,” a senior official said.
These concerns were debated at a late afternoon meeting of ministry officials under higher education secretary R.P. Agrawal, the sources said.
Over the past two months, teachers’ unions across the country have repeatedly protested against perceived delays in announcing a raise.
The Chadha committee, set up on September 5, 2007, was expected to submit its final report within a year. But the panel submitted its report this month.
The promised raise will be valid not just for central university teachers but also for state-run colleges or universities recognised by the UGC.
“Angry teachers are not good for the UPA ahead of these elections. The delay could turn this chunk of influential voters away from the government,” a senior official said.

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