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HT Explainer: Why schoolteachers are up in arms in Punjab?

Thousands of schoolteachers have been protesting in chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s hometown of Patiala for the past three weeks to demand regularisation with full pay. Navneet Sharma dissects the issue

punjab Updated: Oct 30, 2018 15:37 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan,amarinder singh
Members of Sanjha Morcha Teachers union holding a protest IN front of Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib on October 29. (Bharat Bhushan/HT)

Thousands of schoolteachers have been protesting in chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s hometown of Patiala for the past three weeks to demand regularisation with full pay. These contractual teachers have rejected the government’s move to regularise their jobs with a drastic cut in their current salaries during the three-year probation period. Despite repeated warnings of disciplinary action, the protesting teachers have refused to budge. Navneet Sharma dissects the issue.

The standoff?

A total of 8,886 teachers recruited on contract under the centrally-sponsored Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) as well as Adarsh and Model Schools have been seeking regularisation of their jobs. The Congress had, in its poll manifesto, promised to regularise their services and remove pay-related discrepancies. However, its government kept deferring the matter, triggering protests. On October 3, the state cabinet finally decided to regularise their services on a fixed monthly sum of ₹10,300 (initial of regular pay scale) with grade pay of ₹5,000 in addition for three years. The salary offered is roughly a third of what they are getting at present. They rejected it and started a protest under the banner of Sanjha Adhyapak Morcha (SAM), a group formed by 26 teacher unions, in Patiala on October 7. Another 5,178 teachers recruited under the Pendu Sahyogi Teacher Scheme in November 2014 are also protesting here. Their jobs were to be regularised last year on completion of three years, but nothing has been done so far.

Why feeling short-changed?

Contractual teachers – 7,356 recruited under the SSA, 1,194 under the RMSA, 220 for model schools and 116 for Adarsh schools – want regularisation of their jobs with pay protection. The salary of ₹15,300 per month offered to them means a drastic cut as they get ₹42,300 or more per month at present. A number of them had joined the SSA and RMSA after quitting lucrative jobs in private schools. “We have been teaching in government schools for 10 years or so, but they now want to cut our salaries. Never before such injustice has been done,” says SSA-RMSA Teachers Union president Hardeep Toderpur.

What does the govt say?

Over 14,450 contractual teachers were recruited by societies running the SSA and RMSA to improve the pupil-teacher ratio. The two programmes were funded jointly by the Centre and the state on 60:40 basis. Though they were teaching in government schools, they were not employees of the state government. About 6,000 of them, who cleared the teacher eligibility test, got regular jobs during recruitment held subsequently and the rest are continuing on contract. “As per the regularisation policy approved by the cabinet, it is a case of change of employer. They were engaged by societies and will now be employed by the department on regularisation. They will have to be governed by norms for the government staff,” says a school education department official, denying the salary-cut charge. A government notification issued on January 15, 2015, for departments, according to him, entitles them to basic pay for three years and full benefits thereafter. As for the 5,178 other teachers awaiting regularisation, their case has been sent to the finance department for approval and will then be put up before the cabinet.

Where things stand?

With the teacher unions rejecting the regularisation terms, the department gave the option to teachers to opt for regularisation on government terms or continue on contract with current salaries. An online portal was also set up to enable them to take their pick. The department officials had initially claimed that 94% of contractual teachers were willing to opt for regularisation, but the response has been tepid with most teachers ignoring the offer. Only 1,600-odd teachers, including some who were recruited in the master cadre three months ago, have given their options.

What’s stopping the govt?

Despite the Centre cutting down its financial support under the newly integrated Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, which has replaced the SSA and RMSA, this year, the department is willing to pay teachers, who continue on contract, their current salaries. “However, those who opt for regularisation will be paid basic pay. Government rules allow basic pay for first three years. And, these are applicable to all, including the state civil service,” says the department.

What next?

A delegation of the morcha leaders had a five-hour meeting with the CM’s chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar last Tuesday, but there was no breakthrough. The teacher union leaders will now meet Amarinder, who is currently abroad, on November 5 where their demands will be discussed.

First Published: Oct 30, 2018 15:37 IST