Azad Hussain

All is well that ends well!

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Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik  Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), now together termed as Samagra Shiksha, were among those volley of centrally sponsored schemes of MHRD which along with upgrading the education standards in the country aimed at  recruitment of teachers in the education department to equalise the much needed teacher student ratio at the time of their implementation. In Jammu and Kashmir, thousands of teachers were either recruited through these schemes or promoted to higher grades in past during more than a decade, like it happened in other states of the country too.

However the difference was that while teachers in other states were later paid their salaries from these erstwhile schemes, here the government had either recruited some of  the teachers trough JKSSRB (who got promotion through RMSA or SSA) or those recruited directly under an already established ‘Rehbar-e-Taleem’ scheme. The later arrangement was state’s own arrangement which totally differed in the recruitment rules and norms with that of the said centrally sponsored schemes. As a result, it unleashed severe sufferings for the teachers all along their services at the cost of mismanagement by the concerned successive political governments here. Now at the eleventh hour, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Teachers union their miseries are finally coming to an end as recently, in a significant decision taken by the governor administration, it was decided to put an end to this fiasco by linking their salaries with state sector.

According to the  SSA scheme, implemented around 2002 in the state  , a teacher was supposed to  be recruited on a consolidated salary of about rupees 15000 or 20000. But on the other hand despite being highly meritorious candidates in the catchment area of newly opened or upgraded schools, the teachers recruited under Rehbar-e-Taleem scheme had to work on a meagre salary of rupees 1500 for a period of five years after which they were regularized. The appointees hugged the scheme and decided to give up their education half way in some of the cases while not bothering about the meagre salary that was being offered to them for the first five years. This, they did for a secured future after the passing of the first five years.

Subsequently and accordingly after the completion of their five years satisfactory service to the department when they attained regularisation, they were greeted by relatives, friends and neighbours for being confirmed as permanent state government employees.

But the difference in recruitment rules and norms proved too costly for state government at the time when the number of regularised teachers was inappropriately large and the funds released from centre fell short which couldn’t ensure the salaries to thousands of such teachers who ensured functioning of maximum number of elementary level government schools in the state.

In the month of April 2018,  the teachers working under the said scheme who had availed all the perks including 6th pay commission benefits like other government employees till 2018 had to face toughest time when government couldn’t implement 7th pay commission benefits in favour of them due to shortage of funds and  debarred them from their much deserved benefits.  Those teachers were also made to suffer for non payment of their salaries in time. They waited for months together for their salaries too.

Though the centre was not responsible for the whole mess created in the said sector, but keeping in view the recruitment norms of Rehbar-e-Taleem scheme, the teachers deserved to avail the benefits like other government employees of the state.  They had availed the benefits for some time but were deprived of many such benefits at the time of 7th pay commission.

With the result of this indifferent approach of government, confrontation started between teachers and government. Being maximum in number than other cadres of teachers, various organisations of Rehbar-e-Taleem Teachers under various banners triggered a series of protests but the government didn’t respond seriously. With the result, on June 5th 2018, maximum organisations joined hands and came under a single banner ‘Teachers Joint Action Committee (TJAC)’ under the chairmanship of its most senior leader, Mr Abdul Qayoom Wani. After TJAC came into existence, the teachers who didn’t belong to the cadre of SSA also came to support TJAC as their solidarity with the teachers who fought for their Legitimate and genuine demands.

In the beginning, the amalgam of different teacher’s organisations –TJAC- held several protests in many forms and also underwent some negotiations with government, but all in vain.  Despite framing Committee after committee to work out the solution of issues, when government failed to come up with the permanent solution of the issue as per their several assurances, TJAC finally took an extreme step to go for indefinite chain hunger strikes of 48 hours each from 30th August 2018 at Press Enclave Jammu and from 3rd of September 2018 at Partap Park in Srinagar.

The hunger strike attracted the attention of people from all the walks of life as they started to share the miseries of teachers and stood by them. From the day one, people began to come to the venue of Hunger Strike and extended their solidarity with the teachers and be it Religious Organisations, Political Organisations, Civil Society, Journalists, State Economic Allience and Trade Unions , all extended their solidity.

The Strike continued for about a month and ultimately the governor administration came to the negotiation with the teachers and ensured them their rights at par with other employees of the state. Advisor to Governor,  Khursheed Ahmad Ganie, came to the venue and persuaded the protesting lot to break the hunger strike by offering them juice. He on-the- spot accepted that the demand was genuine and ensured before the media that 7th pay commission and other benefits would be given to the said cadre of teachers who despite deserving the salary benefits were not treated at par with other employees of the state earlier.

Months later the working Committee with the Principal Secretary Finance as its head, submitted its teacher-friendly report to government in the month of November 2018. The government approved  the recommendations of the working  committee  to accord sanction for much deserved 7th pay commission and linking of  salaries with state sector.

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