Massive bungling by education department to regularise more than 35,000 teachers lands govt in financial soup
Srinagar: Ill-conceived recruitments under an education programme have grown into big trouble for the J&K government. Without seeking any approval from the finance and planning department, and without any notified vacancy, successive governments in the state have recruited thousands of teachers under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Now, the state treasury is staring at a crisis with a bill of Rs 1,200 crore this year for salaries of the teachers regularised illegally.
According to official data accessed by Kashmir Reader, more than 43,000 teachers were engaged on contractual basis under SSA, a universal education programme sponsored by the Government of India (GoI). Of them, more than 35,000 have been regularised without seeking concurrence of the finance department or the recruiting agency. These teachers were appointed in more than 10,000 government-run schools, the records reveal.
It was learnt that the education department set up a panel, of which Director School Education and Chief Education Officers were members, to regularise the SSA teachers after five years without any consideration for vacancies. This was akin to the pattern adopted for the Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) scheme, which allows regularsation after serving five years on a nominal remuneration. But the ReT teachers were appointed against proper vacancies in the government schools. Even so, both their hiring as well as regularisation was put on hold since 2016.
The massive bungling in the education department has come to fore after the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry reduced the budget for the SSA this year. The state government had no funds left to pay the teachers’ salaries, prompting teachers to hit the streets in Srinagar this week.
In the previous years, the HRD paid a tranche of funds totalling above Rs 1,500 crore of which a major portion was utilised on salaries of teachers. This year, the ministry clubbed the education schemes including SSA and Rashtriya Madhyamik Adhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and teachers’ training and granted a total lump-sum of Rs 2,000 crore for them. The ministry also brought the programmes under one head named Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.
Of these Rs 2,000 crore, a share below 50 percent has been kept for salaries while the rest has to be spent on capital expenditure including infrastructure, training, setting up computer labs and other facilities. This meant that the J&K government would have to arrange more than Rs 1,200 crore for the salaries.
“The ministry has made it clear to us that they won’t be paying salaries for regularised teachers. It was the state which regularised them hence the onus lies on it to arrange the rest of the amount,” a top government source told Kashmir Reader.
The SSA, launched more than a decade ago in Jammu and Kashmir, is aimed at universalising elementary education. Its overall goal includes universal access and retention, bridging gender and social category gaps in education, and enhancement of learning levels of children. It provides a variety of interventions, such as opening of new schools, alternate schooling facility, construction of schools, drinking water facility, and textbooks.
The budget cut has prompted the SSA to tell the education department not to regularise teachers hired under the programme any more.
“Last year, there was no problem as the funds were available. But this year the HRD has reduced the funds for teachers. Problems will arise and would grow in the coming months,” an education official told Kashmir Reader.
This aggravating crisis has forced the government to set up a panel headed by the Minister of State (MoS) for Education to come up with a “workable proposal”.
Chaudhary Zulfkar Ali, who recently took over charge as Minister for School Education, told Kashmir Reader that he would be able to comment on appointment of teachers only after the committee comes up with its report within a fortnight.
That, however, would not absolve the government from coughing up more than Rs 1,200 crore for the payment of salaries of the illegally appointed teachers this year, a finance department official said. “The teachers have been appointed without any vacancies. This will increase the burden on the state, which has scant financial resources,” the official added.