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Teachers become beggars

INDIA

Nearly a dozen retired headteachers and primary school teachers in Calcutta have turned to begging because the government is not paying their pensions. Some are in their 70s and in poor health.

Mangal Chandra Saha, who retired in 1993, begs outside the school where he taught for 45 years. "I have not eaten a full meal for a long time," he said.

Asit Bardhan, 71, a retired headteacher of Chandicharan primary school, begs in Sealah, a Calcutta suburb. He has a heart condition.

And Chhaya Gaba, 70, who retired as headteacher in 1994, looks out for "kind faces" at a neighbourhood bus stop. Sometimes she helps neighbours with domestic chores in return for food.

The All Bengal Primary Teachers' Association says 55,000 retired teachers have not received their pensions. State education minister Kanti Biswas said: "The education budget is exhausted in paying salaries to teachers."

After the local English Language newspaper, The Statesman, broke the story, many retired teachers called to say that they had also not received pensions but did not want their names to be disclosed for fear of government "reprisal".

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