Srinagar: After botching the merger of the Government of India’s (GoI) Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme with the state government’s Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) by regularising the ReT teachers, the J&K government has brought over 41,000 of them to the verge of bankruptcy by depriving them of the benefits a permanent employee is entitled to.
In the year 2000, the School Education Department kept a provision of regularising teachers recruited under the ReT scheme as “General Line teachers” after five years. An official order, a copy of which is with Kashmir Reader, was issued to this effect on April 28, 2000, by the then Principal Secretary, School Education Department, J&K.
However, officials at the helm in the School Education Department mingled the state’s own ReT scheme with the GoI’s erstwhile Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), launched in J&K in the year 2003-04, under which teachers were supposed to be hired on contractual basis.
Since then, the salaries of the ReT teachers – 90 percent of which is paid by the GoI’s Ministry of Human Resource Development – have been delayed by months together, much to the woe of the teachers.
While the teachers were given service books after being made permanent and could avail of the benefits of the 6th Pay Commission and other increments, the Chairman of the J&K ReT forum, Farooq Ahmad Tantray, is now questioning why the ill-fated teachers have all of a sudden been denied the benefits of the 7th Pay Commission, released in favour of state employees from April this year.
Tantray slammed the state government, specifically the School Education Department, saying they “kept us in the dark” while implementing the scheme.
“They should have made it clear at the outset that there was no scope for regularisation in the scheme. Instead, they regularised us as general line teachers. We would have looked for job avenues in other fields. We were deceived by the School Education Department,” he alleged.
He said that most teachers had already crossed the upper age limit and could not look for job avenues elsewhere.
“We have served in the department for 15 years. Who would give us a job if we exit now?” he asked.
The government’s mismanagement had ended up hundreds of ReT teachers in financial and personal crises, Tantray said. “The government has even stopped our yearly increment. How will we compensate the liabilities? The career of our children is at stake. Our own social status is at stake due to the loans we have borrowed from the banks.”
Several ReT women teachers are being taunted by their in-laws over their delayed salaries and many were “on the verge of divorce”, Tantray alleged. While on the one hand the teachers’ sisters and in several cases their daughters had attained the age of marriage, the state government had deprived them financially at this critical life stage.
While Governor N N Vohra had recently constituted a committee to look into the issues of the ReT teachers, Tantray asked, “Where are the reports by the four committees that were constituted from time to time in the past?”
“It is merely a time-consuming exercise,” he alleged.
Irshad Ahmad, an ReT teacher from North Kashmir’s Baramulla district, alleged that the state government had “singled us out” by depriving them of the 7th Pay Commission’s benefits while releasing these in favour of the rest of the teachers in the department.
“The financial crisis faced by the teachers due to the government’s apathy is a reality,” he said.
“We too are serving the same government. Then why were we deprived amongst the over 4 lakh teachers?” asked Irshad.
While the state government had been appointing the ReT teachers right from 2002, an official said that the “burden of salaries of these teachers was later on put on the SSA scheme” since its inception in 2003-04.
Qadri said that the ReT teachers were “maladjusted” in society due to the government’s indifference towards them.
“It is affecting us and our family, especially children, in each and every way. We are suffering from mental trauma,” he said.