By Sheikh Gulzar Ahmed
The catchy slogan of SSA ‘ Pedhe baharat , Bedhe baharat’ has a different meaning in Kashmir. Since the inception of Sarva Shiksha Abbhiyan(SSA) in Jammu and Kashmir, the department of education has seen huge ups and downs. The RTE, girl education, enrolment drive, water facility, toilets in schools, play ground, science labs and computer aided learning and so on were the major areas of focus to give life to the ailing system of education here under SSA. Up gradation of primary to middle schools made it easy for little children to get education at door steps on one side and provided a chance to many bright youth to try their destiny as Rehbar Taleems on the other side. These native boys were so excited to become a part of building the nation that almost all of them hugged their assignment and ignored their alternative future. They left education and their goals half way to help the poor and the voice less children of neglected rural areas.
These tragic heroes forgot everything and single mindedly pursued the dream of constructing the nation and strengthening its pillars. It was nice till their hard toil of five years agreement awarded them the permanent job. They got appointed/confirmed as teachers and accordingly were benefited by the Sixth Pay Commission.
Suddenly, as per the agreement, New Delhi scaled down its share of funds and the state government failed to stand by its commitment of providing salaries. Not only this, some 41000 SSA Teachers and Masters were refused the Seventh Pay Commission .This development affected the equation badly. The SSA Teachers who were without salaries for months were slapped with this blow of deprivation and disappointment. Consequently, we have 41000 teachers in a pall of gloom akin to rudderless ships. The government is following the age old practice of procrastination by framing committees which submit reports only to be dumped in the dustbins. Now, the consequences are felt by almost 200,000 (two lac) people( if we assume five members in each family of these teachers.)
These tragic heroes tried every peaceful way to voice their pain and agony but received batons by the law enforcement agencies. Height of the matter was the incident, when the whole nation was paying obeisance to the nation builders on the Teachers day on 5th September 2018, the teachers of Jammu Kashmir were screaming in Pratap Park, hungry for a consecutive second day to send their pleas to the dispensation. The answer to the heart breaking voice of these innocent teachers was tearing their clothes, beating them ruthlessly, humiliating them and sending them to rot in the four walls of the police stations.
This is the sad saga of one side; on the other side, the school going children and other colleagues of these ill fated teachers have gone into a state of frustration and confusion. At a few places , students showed solidarity with their teachers and took out protest marches. The other teachers in a state of confusion found the environment hostile to impart education to posterity. This has now forced all and sundry to reflect on the sad state of affairs in the department of education. The pouring in of socio religious and political organisation to stand by the teachers on hunger strike at Pratap park was a glaring example of the sensitive nature of the situation. Mr A Q Wani , as the chief of TJAC,EJAC,JKTF and JCC, has no choice but to go for this extreme step along with the entire rank and file of The Jammu Kashmir Teachers’ Forum and TJAC.
If the government keeps demonstrating a deaf ear and shifting blame, the hunger strike will take a very serious turn and we will see a public movement against the callous attitude of the government towards its employees. There is no need of committees but the posts be filled in piecemeal fashion on permanent basis. The government must look for ways to delink the salaries of 41000 SSA Teachers and Masters on the one hand and to extend the Seventh Pay Commission arrears to them without further delay. Otherwise, it appears that the situation may turn terribly ugly.
The author is a Social worker and an Educationist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org