Sainik School students paying staff pensions

Stiff demand: A passing out parade at a Sainik School in Tamil Nadu.   | Photo Credit: HANDOUT

Should a school student who has gained admission on full scholarship, after a national-level entrance examination, be forced to pay for the pensions and salary of his school staff?

This is the question that the authorities who run the Sainik Schools are struggling to address.

According to the estimates with the government, total expenditure on a Sainik School student is a minimum of ₹62,000 per year. Even in the case of students on a full scholarship, (excluding those from SC/ST and OBC communities), the parents now pay from their own pockets anywhere between ₹18,000 and ₹40,000 per annum. A part of this caters to the salary and pension of school employees, officials say.

For example, a student currently enrolled in Sainik School, Amaravathinagar in Tamil Nadu, is required to contribute to the pension of all the staff who worked in the school since it was founded in 1962. “Even if the student is the child of a poor Army havildar, he has to pay a few thousand rupees every month in spite of the scholarships and financial support from both the State and the Centre,” a source pointed out.

“As a result, ordinary soldiers and lower middle-class families, whose children might be the most motivated to become military officers, can no longer afford to send their kids to Sainik Schools. These have instead become affordable public schools for middle and upper middle class families, for whom a military career is almost never the first option” he explained.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) last week held a high-level consultation to find a solution to the issue, which has begun to affect the way the Indian armed forces gets its officers and is now causing regional imbalances in the officer cadre.

Annually, a few thousand students secure admission to the Sainik Schools through a national entrance examination. The schools were meant to remove regional and class imbalances among Indian military officers. On an average, every year 300 Sainik School students became military officers. “It is about 10-12% of the total number of students passing out from these schools. In the past, at the best of times, anywhere between 40-50% of the Sainik School students used to end up joining the military,” one of the sources said.

Legal tangle

The problem has its genesis in a 1988 Supreme Court order which directed that all Sainik School staff be given salaries and pension at par with Central government employees. However, instead of the state taking on the responsibility, the burden was passed on to students, officials said.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 12:07:41 AM |

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