‘Missing folders’ derail probe into teacher recruitment in Bihar
Though the VIB has so far filed over 1000 FIRs involving over 2,200 teachers, things have not moved further since the Patna HC ordered the probe in 2015.
Thousands of “missing folders”, containing educational credentials of teachers recruited between 2006 and 2015 in Bihar, continue the hamper the ongoing probe by the state’s Vigilance Investigation Bureau (VIB), which was ordered by the Patna High Court at least seven years ago.
Though the VIB has so far filed over 1000 FIRs involving over 2,200 teachers, things have not moved further since the HC ordered the probe in 2015.
Since these teachers were appointed through panchayat raj institutions and urban local bodies, the possibility of finding the folders has dimmed due to elections in the panchayats three times since 2006.
Last year, after the HC expressed displeasure over the slow progress in probe, the education department put the onus of uploading their documents on the working teachers, whose folders are missing, afresh on the specified portal, but the process could not be completed despite lapse of several deadlines.
“If the documents are not uploaded, it will be assumed that they have nothing to say regarding the validity of their appointment and considering it prima facile irregular/illegal, the process will be initiated for their removal and recovery of salary paid through the recruiting agencies,” said a letter from director, primary education, to all the district education officers (DEOs) last year.
What is the case
A total of 3.52 lakh teachers, including 2,082 librarians, were appointed in Bihar between 2006 and May 2015. Of them, 3.11 lakh were elementary teachers, including 1.04 lakh Shiksha Mitras appointed for ₹1,500/month honorarium during the RJD regime and later elevated to the rank of panchayat teachers. Maximum cases of forgery were suspected to be in the ranks of elementary teachers and a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed the HC against it.
The HC bench of the then chief justice L Narasimha Reddy and Justice Sudhir Singh, while ordering a vigilance probe, had observed on May 18, 2015: “The extent to which the candidates with fake certificates have been appointed as teachers in the past decade is a matter of deep concern…The state government has soft-pedalled the issue for the past one decade…We direct the director general, vigilance, to immediately swing into action and verify the genuineness of certificates of the teachers who have been appointed since 2006.”
The HC had directed that within three weeks from the date of order, the Vigilance shall collect all such folders in every district, which the education department is willing to hand over, besides two months’ time for collection of merit list. “Though a prayer was made for entrusting the matter to the CBI, we are not inclined to accept the same, for the present. However, we direct the Director General, Vigilance Cell, to immediately swing into action and cause verification of the genuineness of the certificates of the teachers who have been appointed from 2006 onwards till date,” it observed.
The court had also given amnesty to teachers voluntarily resigning. However, just around 3,000 teachers resigned under the amnesty scheme. Later, there were reports that many of them also rejoined once they realised that the probe could turn out to be an endless exercise. Now, a senior education department official said, court cases are also being lodged by teachers for quashing of FIRs by the Vigilance department, as many of the teachers have already served for over a decade.
Out of the total 352,927 teachers appointed, the Vigilance has not received folders for 77,021. That raises suspicion about their bona fides. It has filed 1,046 FIRs involving 2,216 teachers. The highest number of FIRs were filed in Gaya (213), followed by Saran (168), Munger (142) and Begusarai (127).
However, action against those named in the FIR is slow.
Director general (Vigilance) Alok Raj, who took charged earlier this month, said all the district programme officers (establishment) have been directed again to make the missing folders available and additional chief secretary (education) and additional chief secretary (Vigilance department) have been apprised of it.
“The bureau has also written to the ACS (education) about the non-availability of the merit list. It has sent details to all the SSPs and SPs in districts for the arrest of named accused. The education department has also been directed for action. As many certificates are from other states, the ACS has been approached to write to senior officials there with a request for early verification so that the compliance of the HC order could be ensured,” he said.
ACS (education) Dipak Kumar Singh said that as the number of missing folders was high, assuming all of them forged was not justified. “We have held a meeting with Vigilance. We will hold another meeting to find a middle path. Sacking so many teachers on the assumption that all of them may have forged documents could lead to further litigation on a large scale. The department had asked the teachers to submit their documents so that their prospects could be decided on that basis. The department is working on it,” he said.
A senior official of the department said the situation had reached a stage where it would be tough to sack over 77,000 teachers whose folders are missing. “After all, the safekeeping of the documents was the responsibility of the government. Even with change of guard in PRIs, the DPOs should have kept them safe,” he said.
An education department official said a single merit list for the entire state will ensure that meritorious candidates get jobs. “In the past, a candidate with less marks could get job in one panchayat, while those with higher marks but below the highest marks could not get it in other districts. One merit list will give the candidates options to join wherever they are interested and eligible for,” said the official.
Bihar still has large-scale vacancies for teachers in schools and qualified candidates have been agitating for months for recruitment. The government plans to first fill the posts in secondary and higher secondary schools, where shortage is big after upgrade of secondary schools, and later go in for primary schools.