Tripura's '10,323' teachers: Clouded by uncertainty
Agartala: Since 2014, a group of teachers -- popularly known as the '10,323' -- have been fighting a legal battle for their livelihood since Tripura High Court terminated their jobs on finding irregularities in the recruitment process.
Their hopes came crashing down after the Supreme Court of India granted age relaxation for alternative job recruitment in Group C and D for around 9,000 of the 10,323 teachers that will lead to a massive salary cutdown.
A day after Tripura education minister Ratan Lal Nath announced that the state cabinet has given its nod to formulate policy for alternative employment for 10,323 terminated school teachers, a group of teachers under the banner of 'Justice for 10323 Teachers' held a protest march on September 23 against the decision to recruit them in phases and through outsourcing.
Who are the 10,323 teachers?
The 10,323 teachers are a group of teachers recruited in different phases till 2010 last in various posts of graduate teachers, postgraduate teachers and undergraduate teachers. Selection of 10,323 teachers was done in pursuant to advertisements issued in the years 2002, 2006 and 2009 which was challenged before the High Court of Tripura by Tanmoy Nath and others.
Now, among these 10,323 teachers, only 9,698 teachers are left, including 4,380 under graduate teachers, 4,542 graduate teachers and 746 post graduate teachers.
Who challenged recruitment in the court
The appointment of 10,323 teachers was cancelled by the Tripura High Court on May 7, 2014 after spotting irregularities in the recruitment process. The irregularities surfaced after 59 ‘qualified’ youths filed a petition in the high court.
The then Chief Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Swapan Chandra Das had passed the judgment that the jobs would end on Dec 31 that year, as appointments were not made following the norms.
The high court had asked the government to recruit those deprived youth and save 10,323 jobs, but the then government didn’t go by the order and instead challenged the verdict in the apex court.
Later, the SC on March 29 last year upheld the judgment of the high court and said the jobs would end on December 31.
Appeal from state
The then CPM government in 2017 had requested the SC to extend the jobs for another six months as the schools would fall short of teachers in the middle of the session. Later the CPM government announced 12,000 non-teaching education staff posts to bypass the apex court’s order. But the government’s decision was challenged.
After change in government, the BJP-IPFT government had appealed to the Supreme Court to grant a two-year extension in service to 10,323 school teachers in Tripura, who were engaged on an ad hoc basis after their contracts were terminated due to 'unconstitutional' recruitment rules in 2017.
The Supreme Court had allowed the teachers to continue as ad-hoc till March 31, 2020 disposing all pending petitions.
The Central government’s Ministry of Law (MoL) and Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) gave clearance for one-time relaxation so that all the youths irrespective of any professional degree can appear in the TET Paper-II and Paper-I examinations held on October 20 and 26, 2019 respectively. In these examinations, 1194 aspirants successfully qualified out of 1,16,123 candidates appeared.
Uproar in state legislative assembly
The Tripura Legislative Assembly on the first day of the budget session on March 21 witnessed uproar as Opposition CPI-M members started protesting over the rejection of an adjournment motion by the Speaker that was placed to hold a discussion on the 10,323 teachers facing termination on March 31.
Upon insisting on an urgent discussion by Chakraborty, the Speaker rejected the request following which all 16 CPI-M MLA came down the Well protesting against the rejection of adjournment motion.
The Opposition leader Manik Sarkar told reporters that the government is avoiding the serious matter from being discussed in the assembly.
The jobs of the 10,323 were canceled by the high court and the verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court but we still say that the recruitment was done in view of poverty.
CM announces judicial panel to inquire into recruitment of teachers
Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb on March 22 announced that a judicial commission would be formed to inquire and fix responsibility on those who gave jobs to the 10,323 teachers, now facing termination on March 31 this year.
Speaking at a special reference period notice, Deb said that a judicial commission headed by a retired judge would be constituted that would look after the total process and the loopholes in the recruitment.
CM announces monetary relief to 8,882 terminated teachers
Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb on April 2 announced a one-time financial support of Rs 35,000 each to the 8,882 ad-hoc teachers who were terminated from their jobs on Tuesday as a humanitarian gesture during these critical times.
In a video message, the chief minister said that all the 8,882 ad-hoc teachers would receive financial support of Rs 35,000 since they have lost their jobs at the moment of crisis.
“The cabinet has decided to support the teachers financially. There are about 4,375 teachers who used to receive Rs 14,078 salary, 3,761 teachers received Rs 28,995 and 746 teachers received Rs 35,594 as monthly salary. We hope the families would benefit from this financial support from the government,” Deb said.
Tripura govt creates 11,800 posts in various departments
The Tripura government has identified different posts under the state elementary education department. These include 6,000 posts of mid-day meal assistants, 300 posts of hostel wardens and 1,000 posts of mid-day meal supervisors or coordinators would be created. Under the social welfare and social education department, 4,000 posts of early childhood organisers are also lying vacant so far.
Govt urges SC for age relaxation to re-appoint terminated teachers
The state government, in a fresh affidavit, had requested the Supreme Court to allow appointment of ad-hoc teachers against vacant seats of Group C and Group-D on fulfillment of eligibility conditions and with age relaxations, wherever it is required
"We have filed the affidavit within the stipulated time with four points that required permission from the Apex Court. We have requested the court to permit the state govt to consider and appoint these ad-hoc teachers against vacant seats of Group C and Group-D on fulfillment of eligibility conditions and with age relaxation wherever it is required," it said.
The Supreme Court on August 7 put an end to the prolonged case of 8,882 terminated ad-hoc teachers by upholding the Tripura High Court order.
The order copy also cited that it must be noted that the attempt on part of the State in offering certain alternate employment is not to degrade the teachers.
The court also said that the candidates, if eligible, will certainly have the opportunity till March 31, 2023 to get selected for the posts of teachers in the state. Those who are unsuccessful in such attempts may retain the alternate employment which in the Courts view does not amount to any degradation.
Jayanta Banik, resident of Gokulnagar village in Sepahijala district said that from 2014 to March 2020,he had worked as a teacher.
Jayanta Banik, terminated teacher
Once a teacher, Samar Das has now turned into a vegetable vendor to support his family and fund his child’s education.
Das is one among those teachers who have lost their jobs on March 31 and being forced to start new business as vegetable vendors around 15 km from Agartala at Rastharmatha market in Sepahijala district of Tripura.
Over 60 teachers lost their lives in the last five years. Torn between a tough legal war with the state government and a constant battle to provide for their families, they gave up. Some allegedly committed suicide but as per reports most of them died due to diseases triggered by trauma and stress.
Anindita Das’ child was just 8 months old when she lost her husband Sintu Sarkar last year. Since the demise of her husband Anindita has been dependent on her father’s pension who is a retired Group-D employee.
“I got married in 2016 with a government teacher. He was the only source of income being the only son in the family. Few months later a case was filed in the Court against their recruitment. My husband always remained tense and one day he complained of sickness and soon after taking him to Hapania hospital he was referred to Govind Ballabh Pant hospital where he died without being treated”, Anindita said.
Her father Kalibhadra Das is worried and struggling to make ends meet. His Only goal in life is to see his daughter have a secured future.
“I used to work in a Group D post after retirement. There were three of us but now with my daughter and her child to take care of things are getting difficult. If we manage one meal, we have to think about the other. Moreover, the expense of a child is even more than an adult. I am struggling a lot. Only if I could do something for her I could die in peace but my situation is very bad and I am not being able to take this anymore”, Kalibhadra added.
Bijoy Krishna Saha one of the terminated teachers says the 2014 judgement by the High Court was misinterpreted by the government and despite several attempts they did not get a clear answer.
“The judgement that was issues in 2014 did not have any mention of the 10323 teachers. Paragraph 127 of the judgement clearly mentions about those whose jobs will be at risk and those will not be affected. But the office bearers did not read the judgement properly and terminated 10323 teachers. The problem was taken to the High Court and even there we did not get a clear answer. The judgement puts the jobs of around 250 people at risk but the government misinterpreted the judgement and terminated 10,323 teachers”, Saha said.
The Paragraph 127 of the High Court Judgement reads, “Since we have set aside the revised employment policy which applies to a large category of posts and not merely to teachers, we would like to make it clear that our judgment shall be prospective in nature and shall not affect the appointments already made unless the said appointments are already under challenge before the Court on the ground that the employment policy is illegal.”
Speaking with EastMojo, advocate Raghunath Mukherjee said that this is the wrong conception of law. Entire judgement was based on the 58 petition filed by separate persons regarding the recruitment policy of the Tripura government.
The Tripura government had recruited 10,323 teachers in various PGT, GT and UGT posts. That recruitment policy was challenged in front of the High Court and the division bench headed by chief justice Deepak Gupta passed the judgment and declared that the recruitment policy is illegal and unconstitutional.
"One particular para cannot be separated from a particular judgment. The 127 Para says that the recruitment policy is illegal and in respect of this policy, if anybody challenge this policy than it would be treated as illegal. Since there were 58 petitions before the court against therefore the appointment were called as illegal by the court on May 5, 2014", Mukherjee said.
There is no scope so consider this terminated teachers in respect of one particular para 127. It cannot be done. It is a total judgement and even the Supreme Court has upheld the judgment.
These teachers were appointed in different phases from 2009 to 2014 by the then Left Front government. However, the recruitment was challenged and the Tripura High Court in 2014 terminated their services, citing that the selection was contrary to the provisions of the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993.
However, the number of terminated teachers have now come down to 8882 after around 1,400 of the 10,323 applied and have been recruited for jobs in other departments of the government after their term of employment expired on March 31. But the remaining 8,882 terminated teachers continue their struggle.
Former Member of Parliament and CPI(M) leader Jitendra Chaudhury alleges that the ruling BJP have now disowned the 10323 teachers despite their poll promises of reinstating them to their jobs which was also one of the prime agendas of the 2018 elections.
Chaudhury also said that the present chief minister of Tripura who was then the state president BJP and their observer here Sunil Deodhar went on to the Dharna Manch of the teachers and categorically assured them, if BJP is voted to power, if necessary, they will amend certain provisions of the constitution so that the court cannot intervene in the matter and by any means their services will be reinstated.
“Not only the 10,323 but also the other part time appointees through various schemes including thousands, the BJP mentioned that in one stroke all of them will have regular jobs. But now after 30 months, the government is totally disowning the case of the 10,323 teachers along with the others”, Chaudhury said.
He also mentioned that the matter played a crucial role in the change of power in the state.
Human rights activists are also of the opinion that the government should do something for the teachers on humanitarian grounds. Purushottam Roy Barman said that when political parties are not in power, dish out assurances and the current government can easily create posts to rehabilitate them.
Roy Barman said that the government should come forward with a formula on humanitarian grounds so that they can be accommodated, they can be provided with some sort of employment. These governments, when they are not in power, they dish out assurances that if they come to power, provisions will be made for the 10,323 teachers and there is no burden. Even the earlier government created around 10,000 posts to provide employment which was then challenged in the Supreme Court.
"Initially the supreme court granted a stay order but the earlier government could not pursue the matter but after that the Supreme Court removed the stay so there is no bar and posts are also there. So, I think that the state government should do something immediately because every day we come across sad news where either teacher are committing suicide or they dying of starvation or any other reason", Roy Barman said.
Speaking with EastMojo, education minister Ratan Lal Nath said that the supreme court has categorically mentioned and in the judgement said that “the very selection and appointment were found to be illegal and invalid”. Why did the CPI(M) do this?
The 10,323 teachers have no fault but the problem is with the then CPI(M) government. We have formed an inquiry commission to find the irregularities done by the previous government which was also mentioned by our chief minister in the assembly. They are guilty it is clear.
Education minister Ratan Lal Nath
The Supreme Court in its verdict has permitted the Tripura government with age relaxation and opportunity to the terminated teachers till 31st March 2023 to get selected for the posts of teachers and who are unsuccessful in such attempts may retain their alternate employment.
However, in a latest development on September 22nd the state cabinet gave a nod to formulate a policy to provide alternative job recruitment for the 10,323 terminated teachers in Group C and Group D vacancies of various governments departments or through outsourcing. But whether or not the teachers will agree to take up the jobs only time will tell.