Recruitment scam: Bengal schools face staff crunch as bribe givers lose job
The process of terminating the service of teachers began in June last year when justice Gangopadhyay cancelled the appointment of Bengal’s former deputy education minister Paresh Adhikari’s daughter Ankita Adhikari
Many state-run schools in West Bengal are facing staff crunch following the Calcutta high court order that sought termination of service of those who paid bribes for employment, education department officials said.
“The action has especially affected smaller schools where staff strength is low. But the government has to obey the court’s order,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
In May last year, Calcutta high court judge justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the appointment of non-teaching (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) between 2014 and 2021.
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The appointees allegedly paid bribes in the range of ₹5 lakh to ₹15 lakh to get jobs after failing the selection tests.
The court later directed the state to cancel the appointment of those who bribed their way into service. As a result, a few thousand teachers, including Group C and D staff have lost their jobs in phases.
“Among 1,911 Group D staff who lost their jobs, some approached the Supreme Court after a division bench of the high court upheld the order of the single bench. On March 3, the Supreme Court upheld the termination order. The state government had started the process of appointing 1,444 new Group D staff, but the apex court ordered a stay on that process till the next hearing,” said another state official on condition of anonymity.
In a parallel development on March 3, the WBBSE terminated the services of 618 more teachers, said the official.
The process of terminating the service of teachers began in June last year when justice Gangopadhyay cancelled the appointment of Bengal’s former deputy education minister Paresh Adhikari’s daughter Ankita Adhikari.
Ankita did not even appear for the personality test but the original merit list was fudged to accommodate undeserving candidates, the state government admitted before the court in June 2022.
Justice Gangopadhyay ruled that another applicant, who was not appointed as a high school teacher in 2018, must be recruited in Ankita’s place. Adhikari was also asked to return the salary she received over four years.
Since it has been alleged that the jobs were offered against hefty bribes, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is conducting a parallel investigation.
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In connection to the case, the ED arrested state education minister Partha Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee on July 23 last year. In its first charge sheet filed on September 19, ED said it traced cash, jewellery and immovable property worth ₹103.10 crore linked to the duo.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee removed Chatterjee from the government and also suspended him from the party. The scam took place during Chatterjee’s tenure as state education minister.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator and former president of the state primary education board Manik Bhattacharya was also arrested by ED on October 11 last year.
Chatterjee, Mukherjee, Bhattacharya and several former officials of the education department have been named in various charge sheets filed by the ED.