Delinking SSA Salaries
By: Sameer Fida Hussain
Education in Kashmir seems to be in a state of complete mess. From frequent closures of the schools to widespread protests by teachers, this sector has been found wanting in many aspects. One big issue that continues to give the Government a tough time is the issue of SSA salary. The Government has miserably failed to streamline SSA salary which has compelled the teachers to take a confrontational path. Let us revisit this scheme to get a cursory idea about how things have panned out thus far.
At a time when there was a job drought in the strife torn Vale, the state government vide order no 396-EDU of 2000 came up with the ‘Rehbar-e-taleem’ scheme with the aim to promote the de-centralized management of elementary education and to effectively operate the schooling system at the grass root levels. As provisioned in the scheme teaching guides termed as “Rehbar-e-taleem’s” were recruited in the schools. In an order signed by the then principal Secretary to Government, Education department, Mtr Sushma Chowdary, the Rehbar-e-taleem’s had to be on probation for a period of five years. Those appointed were entitled to a honorarium of Rs 1500 for the initial period of 2 years and Rs 3000 for the subsequent 3 years of his/her probation. In the order there is a separate clause for regularisation wherein it is clearly stated that upon successful completion of five years as Rehbar-e-taleem on honorarium basis, the candidate shall be eligible for appointment as general line teacher in the department. Mark the use of the word “General line teacher” in the said order.
The scheme met with an instant success and as envisaged in the scheme there was a tremendous increase in enrollment in the Government aided schools. Among many positive outcomes of this scheme, opening of Schools in far flung and inaccessible areas was achieved. Already established Government schools in far flung and inaccessible areas were a concern for the Government as teachers were reluctant to join these schools. Those of whom who were posted to these schools managed to get the orders revoked. The scheme hit a jackpot as these schools got teachers, who being locals, would not frown or wince on seeing the order of their posting in the said schools. In the time to come, the scheme yielded great results as the schools remained functional in the times of strife, turbulence, curfews and numerous other unforseen events. Talking of the “Rehbar-e-taleem” appointed in these schools – – – well, he became the go to man of the authorities. Census operations, Booth Level Officer, time to time surveys and various other non teaching assignments were assigned to him. The teacher, considering it as part of his duty kept on working religiously. This brings me back to the topic of regularization. The Rehbar-e-taleem’s appointed under the aforementioned scheme carried dreams of their regularization in their heart and mind. Each night they would subtract a day from their probation period and get lost in sweet dreams. As their regularization date approached, they would start the reverse counting and the atmosphere in their homes would be upbeat and festive. That one moment when some official handed over to them the confirmation order proved to be the hallelujah moment for them. The regularized RT would read the order 3-4 times just to let the feeling to sink in. It is pertinent to mention here that the order which was presented to the RT read like this:-
“Consequent upon his regularization and placement as general line teacher in the pay scale of………………… ”
Once again mark the use of the word ‘General Line Teacher’. Even the honourable high court has maintained that these teachers are to be treated as ‘general line teachers’ after the completion of five years.
From 2002-2003 Rehbar-e-taleem teachers under the flagship scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan began to be recruited on the analogy of order no 396 EDU of 2000. Sensing lack of opportunities many candidates who were pursuing higher studies left them in order to join education department so as to secure their future in an uncertain and strife torn Valley. Had they known that the scheme under which they are being recruited would be laden with troubles in the future, they would not have joined and preffered to continue their studies for brighter prospects. The candidates only knew this much that if appointed, they would be known as Rehbar-e-taleem’s and after the successful completion of five years honorarium service they would be called as “General line teachers”. The poor fellows did not know the source of funding of the scheme. Seldom did they know about the technicalities of the scheme as the states’ bureaucratic machinery was there to worry about it. In a way the Government stalled their brighter future prospects by encouraging them to join as “REHBARS” . The salary of SSA teachers is so irregular that more often than not these people are left red faced before their, children, wives and parents. How can a teacher whose distressed wife has yelled at him concentrate on teaching-learning? How can he stay focussed in the classroom after confronting his children and telling them all sort of lies and excuses?
These teachers have raised loans and are unable to repay them. The Interest on their loan accounts has raised alarmingly. Interestingly, most of these teachers raised loans at a time when their salary was somewhat regular. Bankers too were mislead seeing the trend of their salary credits. Had the banks known that the accounts of these teachers would be left high and dry in the coming future they would not have sanctioned the loans. Presently if a teachers working under the flagship scheme of SSA approaches a bank for a loan. He/she feels embarrassed when he/she gets a scathing remark that the loan cannot be sanctioned owing to sporadic salary credit.
The teachers have been reduced to pauperism and penury.
With their backs against the wall
the teachers have been compelled to take the confrontational path. For God’s sake do tell whether these poor fellows are demanding a hike in grade pay or some other undue benefit? They are only demanding their right and denying it is tantamount to human rights violation. Pushing, heckling, yanking, cane charging, chasing away those whom you call as nation builders is condemnable. It is not a pleasing sight for anyone to see a policeman holding a teacher by his neck. It is a pity that as and when the government senses soaring tempers and a possible confrontation, they release the salary of a month to put a lid on things. Need of the hour is that the present PDP-BJP dispensation understands the gravity of the situation and delinks the SSA salary component from central budget and links it to the state budget. This is seemingly inevitable and more the government delays it, more will be its ill impact on the educational system.
Gala tou ghont diya tera ahle-danish nay
Ab kaha say aayay sadaa-e la-illah-ha-illalah.