The Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE), which conducts class 10 and 12 examinations for over 25 lakh students every year, is struggling to meet ends as they await approvals from the state government to hike the examination fee annually.
The examination fee of Rs325, which is the state board's main source of income, was last revised in 2008. The board is an autonomous body and does not receive any grants or funds from the state government. "Due to the rising costs of conducting examinations and operations, the state board is running out of its fixed deposits. Over 70 per cent of the deposits have been used up. The board is struggling to pay its own employees and, hence, is not filling vacant posts. At the Mumbai division alone, 49 posts are lying vacant," said a source.
Starting 2013, the state board is also moving to an online process which will also require additional funds. However, the board maintains that it has adequate funds to function but has asked for a revision in the examination fee last year. "We collect the fees only twice a year — once for the March exam and once in October. So it is best that we create fixed deposits of the amount. It is these fixed deposits that we are using and haven't run out of yet," said Ganghadhar Mamane, chairperson of the board.
Commenting on the vacancies in the state board, Mamane said, "Every year, people either retire or leave, but we are recruiting them as prescribed. Work is not affected as we outsource it when required."
"The state has given the board autonomy but it has no power to make any decisions. Even academic demands need approvals from the state. The board cannot even on its own increase the exam fees," said the source.
The request to revise the examination fee annually by 5 to 10 percent, Mamane said, is with the state and work is in progress. "We are expecting it to come through soon," he said.
Teachers, however, have raised concerns over the state's depleting resources. "Every time we demand an increase in the rates for assessment or invigilation, we are told that the state board has no money. If our demands are not met, we will begin an agitation," said Anil Deshmukh, secretary, Maharashtra State Federation of Junior College Teachers' Organisation (MSFJCTO). Currently, the teachers are, on average, paid Rs3.50 per paper they assess and Rs25 for each day of invigilation.
MSFJCTO had threatened to boycott the examinations and paper assessment as their demands regarding better pay scales and immediate appointments to fill vacant posts were not being addressed.