After 45 years of toil and sacrifice, elderly school sweeper’s hopes of just remuneration dashed

After 45 years of toil and sacrifice, elderly school sweeper’s hopes of just remuneration dashed

BUDGAM: Ghulam Mohammed Dar, 85, had hoped for a handsome salary after he was engaged as a sweeper at Government Middle School Nowrozbaba in 1974 on a meagre salary of Rs 15 per month.
Besides working on an inadequate salary, Dar also provided three Kanals of land for the construction of the school’s building, in lieu of employment for his sons. However, after a time lapse of four-and-a-half decades, the promises and hopes have turned out to be hollow.
The ailing Dar today lives confined to a bed in his old, decrepit house at Nowrozbaba in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Besides having a severe ailment, Dar has also turned deaf.
While talking to Kashmir Reader, Dar said, “It was 1974 when I provided my own house for the school, it was the time when people of my area had no concept of education. However, in 1982, the building unfortunately was reduced to ashes in a fire incident.”
“In those days, the then ZEO (Zonal Education Officer) Magam provided me a meagre sum of Rs 15 on a monthly basis,” Dar said adding, “But after the house was gutted, I didn’t receive even a single paisa as compensation from the concerned authorities.
“In 1982, the school didn’t close, rather I provided my second house to accommodate the school. However, there was no increment in salary,” he added.
Two years later, Dar said, “the then ZEO of Magam in a formal order, bearing order no 438/ZEO/M/84, dated back to 10 May, 1984, engaged me as a sweeper on a monthly salary of 25 per month.”
Besides acting as a sweeper, Dar has also been responsible for the watch and ward of the school for the past 45 years. “I have worked as a watchman in the 90s, when all schools were being targeted and torched by the miscreants across the valley,” he said.
But the irony, he said, is that “the government in reciprocation dragged me from pillar to post and deceived me till date and have left me in dire straits.
“I did not get any compensation for the land given for the school, and my salary has literally remained the same Rs 25 for the past five decades.
“In 1996, when the officials approached me and asked for land to construct the school’s own building, I made my land available,” Dar continued. “I was told that after some months my salary will be increased and my sons will also be employed. But those promises were never fulfilled.
“Though my salary was on its first instance hiked from Rs 15 to 25 and from Rs 25 to 50 in year 1993 and finally from Rs 100 to 300, however I have never received the salary on time,” he added.
The official document available with Dar revealed that for the time period of four years (March 2009 to March 2013), his total salary, according to the government order, is Rs 16,500. Out of this amount, Dar has only received a sum of Rs 900 and is yet to receive Rs 15,600.
“Every time I approached the officials of the Education Department, they didn’t allow my application to move forward on one another pretext,” Dar said adding, “They either ask for affidavits or other documents to prove my employment.”
One more disaster hit Dar’s hopes in 2011 when a list of employees being regularised was formally published. “In the list, I found my name in the waiting list and, instead of me, another man who used to be the son of one of the school’s headmasters (Abdul Rashid Khan’s), namely Jahangeer Ahmad Khan, was regularised,” he narrated.
“That was a big cheating with me,” Dar said. “Since I was a poor man, my name was skipped. He was the son of a teacher, he was promoted. If this isn’t corruption, then what shall I call this?”
Every day, the Dar family has to clean the toilets and the dozens of rooms of the school building. “I have to clean the rooms every day, early in the morning. In case we fail, the headmaster tells us that he will employ another person.”
Besides cleaning the school building, Dar and his family have to keep a vigil on the school during night hours. “We have to take care of the school during night hours and in winter too,” he said adding, “ It is not less than a daunting task for us.
“In 2016, when several schools were torched in J&K, I was told to stay there at night, which always kept my life at a high risk. But the truth is that I always preferred duty over my life,” Dar went on. But in return, Dar says, “I was given nothing except ‘Khakher’ dragging.”
Dar added, “I have hundreds of times visited the officials but in vain. They never paid me any heed.
“I request the worthy Governor Jammu and Kashmir to kindly intervene in this matter so that the long pending harassment may come to an end,” Dar added.
Chief Education Officer Budgam Fatima Banoo, however, could not be contacted for her comments despite repeated attempts.