The cash-strapped Mamata Banerjee government is set to shower financial benefits on college principals, projecting it as a "commitment" that the erstwhile Left Front government didn't keep.
Education minister Bratya Basu is likely to announce the package at a meeting of the West Bengal Principals' Council at Raiganj University College on Monday, sources said.
The proposed benefits include a hike in the minimum monthly basic pay from Rs 40,000 to Rs 43,390, a special allowance varying between Rs 3,000 and Rs 6,000 a month, a fixed car allowance of Rs 6,000 every month for everyone and reimbursement of telephone bills up to a ceiling of Rs 3,000 a month.
These hefty additions to the salary bill of a government sinking in debt are seen by many as an attempt to win over the still dominant Left lobby in the principals' council. Left sympathisers continue to be in the majority within the organisation despite the posts of secretary and president being occupied by pro-Trinamul members.
"The UGC had recommended a number of financial benefits for college principals which the erstwhile Left Front government had failed to implement. We are trying to introduce some additional benefits for principals of colleges complying the UGC's recommendations," said an official of the higher education department.
The government is hoping the extra benefits will help fill up vacancies. Bengal has 452 state-aided colleges and nearly 50 per cent of them don't have full-time principals. The college service commission had selected 42 candidates last year but only 27 of them joined.
"The state government has been trying its best to improve the standard of education in state-aided colleges and we appreciate the initiative to raise the remuneration of principals and attract better candidates for the vacant posts," the general secretary of the principals' council, Chandan Chakraborty, said.
Pro-Trinamul members publicising the proposal to offer better benefits have already convinced many in the Left camp to give the government a chance.
"I wasn't keen to attend the meet (slated for Monday) but I have changed my mind," the pro-CPM principal of a south Calcutta college said.
The UGC recommends remuneration for principals of state-aided colleges on a par with those offered to teachers of central institutes, including minimum basic pay of Rs 43,390, special allowances, car allowance, telephone bill reimbursement, leave travel concession and house rent.
The Trinamul government hasn't yet accepted the UGC's recommendations on leave allowance and house rent.