It is too late

Now releasing salary in favor of the teacher will not bring him back his son
It is too late
Members of EJAC protest against the suicide of a government teacher's son at Press Enclave in Srinagar, on Wednesday 2 June 2021.Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Justice delayed is justice denied. This oft repeated maxim cam alive somedays back in case of a government school teacher whose salary was withheld for more than two years due to which his 24 year old son committed suicide; the son cited hardships faced by such teachers, including his father, calling it unbearable and intolerable.

The son of the government school teacher from south Kashmir’s Kulgam area had made a video in which he explained the reasons for committing suicide. In his video, the youth sent a message to all the helpless teachers, beginning his father, that he sacrificed his life for all of those who have not been paid for the last two years.

Unable to narrate his woeful tale, the victim son of the teacher said; “I can’t tell you how much trouble I have had to this day. That is why I took this step today.”

The video went viral on social media sending shock waves all over, with the netizen lashing out at the school education department.

A day after, the school education department released around Rs 33 crore for disbursement of the salary for these teachers with strict instructions to all the Chief Education Officers (CEOs) to adhere to formal codes, financial regulations, and circular instructions issued from time to time in this regard.

The department kept the salary of government school teachers withheld under the pretext of pending clearance and adverse report from investigating agencies which delayed their absorption as Grade II and Grade III teachers in the school education department.

The teachers whose salary was withheld for the past two years were not newly recruited but were rendering their services in the school education department for more than a decade. These teachers were earlier recruited under an erstwhile centrally sponsored scheme - SSA with a monthly pay of Rs 200 to Rs 3000. After completing the five years service they were designated as regularized SSA teachers and started drawing salaries like other teachers working in the department.

However, in 2018 the department denied benefits of 7th pay commission to these teachers saying that they were not regularized. Not only this, the monthly salary of these teachers was also withheld for around 8 months.

After a gap of around one year the government absorbed graduate SSA teachers as Grade-II teachers and those possessing 10+2 qualification were absorbed as Grade-III teachers.

In the process of this transition from SSA to grade-II and grade-III teachers, the department started the police and CID verification of all these teachers afresh.

The verification of around 500 to 600 teachers was either pending or as per the department, had received adverse remarks from the investigating agencies. Due to this the department neither processed their files nor did it release the salary of these teachers which they were entitled for as regularized SSA teachers.

The salary of the victim’s father, a teacher at the Government Primary School Avail, Kulgam, was stopped in March 2019 after a verification report, ordered by the administrative department, was submitted as “adverse” as the victim’s father was reportedly a militant in the 1990s.

Without considering the repercussions of withholding the salary of these teachers, the department shelved their cases leaving these teachers to fend for themselves.

The teacher from Kulgam was not the lone victim of this ill-treatment received from the department. But there were other teachers who became victims of the deadly diseases while waiting for their regularization and release of their salary. Ironically, the previous incidents did not shake the conscience of the authorities at the helm of affairs. No compensation was provided to the family of those teachers.

The first case was of Muhammad Muneer Lone who was recruited in the school education department some 16 years ago. However, his joy was short-lived as he got caught in the official wrangles of the department.

From 2019 to December 2020, he was not paid his monthly wages even as he had to spend a fortune on his treatment after being diagnosed with cancer. A teacher from Girdawana Nowshera area of Baramulla district lost his battle to the dreaded disease in December 2020, leaving his family shattered.

Lone was appointed an EV in 2005 with monthly wages of Rs 3000. He was absorbed in the department as ReT in 2013 and was supposed to be regularised in 2018.

Even though the process of his engagement in the department as Grade-III teacher was started in 2018, it hit a roadblock due to official wrangles.

He was suffering from cancer and could not bear the expenses for his treatment as the department delayed his regularisation in the department as Grade-III teacher. The delay left him without salary for a year.

Muneer was getting only Rs 3000 to feed his family but unfortunately the department withheld this amount for almost one year. Later, he passed away due to cancer.

A week after Muneer’s death, Baakir Ali, a teacher from Gaadkhod Sumbal, Bandipora lost his battle to cancer in December ending last year awaiting regularisation of his services. He was also denied his salary for more than a year.

Such incidents speak volumes about the government indifference faced by the teachers for none of their fault. Denying salaries after working in the department for over a decade is completely unjust. If the government started verification of teachers afresh their salaries should have been released as per the previous schedule.

Denying salaries for two years is sheer injustice for which the government should be made answerable.

Now coming to the recent episode wherein the salary of the teacher was released two days after the death of his son. Releasing the salary now has exposed the indifferent attitude of the authorities which earlier denied the salary to the same teacher on the pretext of adverse report. The government did not receive the NoC in favour of these teachers before it released the pending salary which was worth Rs 33 crores.The government was forced to release the salary after it faced criticism for not releasing the salary on time.

Had the government taken this step a few days ago, the father would not have lost his son. Now, the teacher will receive the monthly salary without delay but it will not erase the scars of the father, rather it will haunt him every month after he will get a ping about release of his salary.

The government needs to answer that when it could release the salary of all these teachers a day after a son of a teacher committed suicide, why it was denied earlier under the pretext of ‘adverse report’ from investigating agencies.

The government should have shown its concern and acted early to avoid the death of a youth who could not tolerate the humiliation and the suffering of his father. Let good sense prevail because human lives matter.

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