Broken Contract

Hundreds of contractual lecturers working for years at various higher secondary schools and colleges were abruptly disengaged after August 2019. Now, in their late twenties and thirties, they are jobless and have nowhere to go, reports Khalid Bashir Gura

Contractual teachers protest for regularization in Srinagar

Following the reading down of Article 370 on Aug 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir 10+2 contractual lecturers hoped for regularisation of their jobs and an end to their years of struggle. But when they returned to schools after months of lockdown, they were told they stand disengaged already.

Since then, the future of more than 1500 highly qualified candidates, most of whom have completed 10-15 years of ‘service’ in the education department, is uncertain.

“The academic arrangement process was started in 1998 in higher secondary schools to overcome the shortage of staff,” said Pankaj Sharma, a resident of Jammu and President of 10+2 Lecturer Association in Jammu.

Over the years successive governments failed to devise a policy to regularize the candidates, most of whom have qualified NET, SET, and are PhDs, besides having decades of teaching experience. Sharma himself has served the department for more than a decade. “Most of us are feeling depressed,” Kashmir Divisional President of the Association, Ishfaq Majeed, 28, said.

A Hope

The candidates were serving the department with the hope that they will be regularized someday. Now, they believe they are the victims of the “use and throw policy” of the successive governments.

As they are protesting for years with no solution in sight and demanding regularization, the incumbent administration has shocked them by contending that due to the absorption of ReTs and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) teachers they have no vacancies left and are not going to recruit lecturers through the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission for the upcoming five to six years.

The experienced candidates who are already on the brink of ineligibility for other posts will soon be over age till government promises materialize. They rue they gave their best years to the department but have now been abandoned.

“It was during the tenure of Satyapal Malik that more than 40000 candidates were recruited in the department,” Majeed said. “But we were excluded”.

The Lost Policy

Since 2016, Majeed said, the department would continuously conduct written examinations and screening and only then hire them. “Article 370 went, so did our livelihood,” said Majeed.

During Mufti Sayeed’s 2003 government, the contractual teachers said a policy was introduced assuring regularisation of services of contractual lecturers. The policy also assured a salary increase from Rs 3500 to Rs 7000. But within three months, another notification on October 21, 2003, said that in future all such arrangements would be made on a contractual basis.

Art Work by Malik Yasir

“In 2003 a policy 1301-Edu of 2003 was framed for the regularization of concerned academic lecturers and it was clearly mentioned that the teachers who would be appointed on a contractual basis would be regularized after the completion of three years,” said Sharma. “After some time, the term academic arrangement was modified to contractual rules through corrigendum order no 1584 –Edu of 2003 in which it was mentioned that in future all such arrangements would be made on contractual basis. But neither were we regularized after the completion of three years nor after seven as per contractual rules.”

In 2010, Majeed said a special provision Act was brought by the government in which it was mentioned that all the contractual and consolidated daily wagers would be regularized after the completion of seven years.

“In 2015 SRO 520 was brought to regularize left out cases but it’s very unfortunate that we were not included,” Sharma added.

The special provisions were implemented on doctors and others but not on teachers.

Paltry Wages

The candidates also complained of paltry wages, asserting that they are unable to feed themselves and their families. “In Rs 7,000-10,000, how can we manage to feed our families? With no job security, we are in perpetual fear about our future,” they said.

College Contractual Teachers Association on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. KL Image

Now idle with no job, the candidates are battling shame and psychological issues. “Even within our own families we are looked down upon as we have not been able to get desired jobs as expected after years of struggle with a huge investment in academic degrees,” Majeed said.

When meeting someone or any student of theirs, the question that haunts the contractual lecturers is: What are you doing these days?  “This instils shame and inferiority complexes.”

Majeed, a son of a government employee, is still unmarried and has not shouldered family responsibilities yet. But he is worried as his father has now retired.

Overage

Muhammad Muzaffar, 39, a resident of Bandipora had to abandon his plans for higher studies due to financial constraints at home and had applied for a contractual lecturer’s post soon after finishing his masters in Botany. He was appointed in 2013 and was serving the department till 2019.

“Earlier the selection was based on merit and later when Dr Shah Faesal became Director Education, screening tests were conducted. I qualified for it and continued to serve,” he said.

Muzaffar had to travel more than 30 km daily to Sumbal to teach for a monthly salary of Rs 7000.  He was also disengaged in 2019.

“Our career is bleak. Last year I prepared for Accounts Assistant exams,” Muzaffar said, adding that he could not qualify as he thinks he has lost the zeal for competitive exams now. “I have given my prime time to teaching and now I find myself amid books, looking for some hope in any random job. But now I am on the brink of passing the age bar.”

The Motivation

Why did they choose to serve on a contractual basis for years?

 Muzaffar said they saw the government regularizing the employees of other departments after a few years of contractual services so they also felt hopeful.

“My result statement in school was never below 90 per cent. I used to give my best in teaching,” he said.

Presently his livelihood is private tuitions, which may not be as lucrative as in Srinagar. “I am able to survive because of a joint family,” he said.

Physical Labour

In desperation, many candidates with no source of livelihood had to do physical labour to feed their families.

Last year on a cold November day Dr Tariq Mohiuddin, 35, was disallowed by some of his students to work in the field as a labourer to earn his livelihood.

“They could not see me doing this,”, said Tariq, a PhD in political science who had been teaching as a contractual lecturer at Government Higher Secondary School at Vessu Qazigund between 2018 and August 2019.

5 days on, Contractual teachers continue their protest for service continuation

Earlier he had been appointed as a contractual lecturer from 2010 to 2014. After a few years of teaching experience, he planned to pursue PhD and took a break till he was awarded the degree in 2017. Later when he joined again on contract, he was disengaged like many others.

“The word contractual hurts us,” he said, adding that he is still unmarried because of a lack of a job. He said he is scared to face society and is consumed by self-guilt as despite a PhD he is jobless.

“Presently I am preparing for exams to every government post irrespective of my interest and expertise. I am becoming depressed at home,” he said.

The only viable option, according to him, is the private sector, which is also missing in Kashmir. “I am on the verge of a heart attack,” he said as he is worried by the family responsibilities, ageing parents and changing priorities.

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