Employees reportedly receive less than minimum daily wage

The staffs of the only Braille press in Odisha in Berhampur are still ill-paid although this printing unit for the visually impaired is equipped with most modern machines.

This Braille press in Berhampur was started under a Red Cross Society initiative in 1986 and at that time it was the sixth Braille press in the country. Women & Child Development Department of the State government provides grant in aid to it for its maintenance. According to sources, the grant in aid is around Rs. 1.9 lakh which have not been revised for the last 20 years.

In October 2013, two new modern Braille printing units imported from Belgium have started functioning at this Braille press.

These two units had cost around Rs. 1.70 crore and with additional infrastructure for these units the expenditure on installation of these two units went above Rs. 2 crore. With these two new it became a major Braille printing unit of the country.

As per the authorities of this Braille press, the high speed computerised printing machines, like the ones installed in Berhampur are available in only two other Braille printing presses of the country.

But it is an irony that only two employees, one manager and one operator are running this Braille Press. Both of them are working there since its inception.

They are supported by temporary workers used as proof readers and Braille data entry operators. The manager and the operator get their monthly remuneration from State government through grant-in-aid.

If the salary provided to these two employees of the Braille press is alleged to be less than the minimum daily wage prescribed by the government.

The manager is reported to be getting Rs. 5, 286 per month while the operator gets Rs. 3, 540 per month. Both are consolidated amounts.

The data entry operators and proof readers appointed by this Braille press on temporary basis get around Rs. 100 per day.

It is surely sad to note that these personnel who are skilled in the unique technique of Braille books production have till date not been properly recognised by the government.

Even though the two employees of this Braille press have served around 27 years the State government has not adopted any proper scale of pay for them.

At present this Braille press in Berhampur is catering to the needs of the visually impaired students of Odisha as per the orders of Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA). More than 15,000 textbooks are supplied annually, apart from Braille calendars and a science magazine.