More than a decade back the Government of J&K came up with a legislation called Jammu & Kashmir Civil Services (Special Provisions) Act, 2010. The aim of this legislation was to provide for regularization of employees in the Government sector who were appointed either on ad hoc, contractual or consolidated basis. This was in fact the preamble of this law. A year before the Civil Services (Special Provisions) Act was enacted, the J & K Government committed a legal fraud in 2009, by changing the nomenclature of contractual college teachers (lecturers). A new term Academic Arrangement was conceived by our bureaucrats. The poor contractual college teachers or lecturers never knew what the Government was planning to do with their career? On April 29th 2010 when the law was passed enabling regularization of the services of all the ad-hoc, contractual and consolidated employees of J&K, it was like a bombshell which stunned the contractual college teachers. This was a deliberate attempt to bypass these highly educated people who had been serving in J&K Higher Education Department right from the mid 1990's.
Ad-hoc to contractual lecturer
The contractual college teachers were initially designated as ad-hoc lecturers when the Government began appointing them in degree colleges in the mid 1990's. This was the time when the majority of the Government Degree Colleges in J&K had teaching staff deficiency (lecturers, professors etc). The reasons for the shortage of teaching staff were a massive increase in student enrollment in colleges from 1995 onwards. During the same time several new degree colleges were set up, but there were no sanctioned posts of lecturers or assistant professors. Migration of Kashmiri pandits from valley in 1990 many of whom were college teachers had also created a vacuum in Govt colleges especially in Kashmir valley.
With a planned policy to make sure ad-hoc college lecturers were kept away from getting regularized the nomenclature of ad-hoc lecturer was changed to contractual lecturer around mid-1990's as mentioned above. After this was done the Higher Education Department started taking undertakings from the job aspirants (contractual lecturers) through an affidavit wherein they were asked to give in writing that they won't undertake any research or PhD programme during the contractual service. This colonial practice deprived many of these contractual college teachers not to pursue M-phil or PhD programmes.
Sajid Ali, a contractual college teacher (now called academic arrangement teacher) is a classic case of this injustice and imperious attitude of the authorities at the helm. Sajid did his MSc in electronics from Kashmir University around 2005. After some time he was appointed as contractual college lecturer. He served in government degree colleges at Baramulla, Sumbal, Anantnag and Bemina. Sajid wanted to undertake M-Tech or PhD in electronics but he could not, fearing he might lose the job. He was hopeful that one day his services would be regularized, but even after serving the department for the last 13 years Sajid feels his future is bleak. His career along with many of his colleagues has been ruined by the unfair and unjust policies of the Government.
The higher education department has now started hiring young PhDs, NET qualified candidates as college teachers under academic arrangement. For a PhD candidate 30 points are given during the selection process, while contractual teachers appointed 20 or 25 years back will only get 10 points (1 point for a year, with a cap of 10 points).
" First of all we were deprived from going for the PhD programme and even for a 25 years' experience , we can't get more than 10 points. This is sheer injustice with us which we agitated before J&K High Court " says Sajid Ali
J&K High Court intervenes
With an aim of getting justice the contractual college teachers filed several writ petitions before the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir. Through these petitions the issue of their regularization and having been excluded under the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Special Provisions) Act, 2010 was agitated on different occasions. In addition to it the contractual college teachers sought judicial intervention on change of nomenclature every year for making selection of college teachers under academic arrangement. More than 90 odd petitions have been filed before JK High Court from 2014 to 2019 wherein these teachers have sought identical relief discussed above. By making changes in eligibility for the post of academic arrangement teachers, the contractual teachers apprehend that the Govt is setting up such norms which can even deprive them from the contractual job (academic arrangement) which they have been doing for the last many years (10 to 25 years). In one of the orders dated 26th June 2019 the high court bench of Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur ordered for maintenance of the status-co. Similar orders have been passed in the past also. This is a big relief for the contractual college teachers working under academic arrangement as they had not to apply for the contractual (academic arrangement) post again and again as per the court direction, but the Government is not ready to abide by court orders.
When this author spoke to Fayaz Ahmad Wani, President Contractual College Teachers Association said that the Government was not respecting the orders of the high court to maintain the status-co so that petitioners continue with their teaching work in colleges. He said that new contractual teachers and teaching assistants were being appointed in many colleges where our colleagues are already working for several years.
"From July 2019 till April 2021 the poor contractual college teachers have not been paid their wages (except for 4 to 5 months). The college principals on the verbal direction from administrative department Higher Education are not allowing the contractual teachers to join their duties. This is sheer injustice and a plain case of contempt of court. We are following the case before the judiciary but it takes a lot of time to list the case for hearing especially when we have a COVID 19 like situation. The cases are listed through virtual mode which has added to our miseries" he added
When the Hon'ble High Court asked for an affidavit from the Department of Higher Education on the implementation of the order, the Director Colleges and many degree college principals through a written affidavit told the High Court that status-co was being maintained. This is being refuted by the petitioners (contractual college teachers).
Calcutta HC Judgment
The Calcutta High Court on 4th July, 2019 in a landmark judgment on contractual teachers ordered the West Bengal Government to give salaries and other benefits to part-time school teachers at par with full-time permanent teachers as both of them had the same workload. The Court also observed that denying equal pay to the part-time teachers for equal work would violate Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. The bench of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya directed the State Government to take steps for payment of salaries and other benefits to petitioners equal to that of regular pay scale. Ironically the contractual college teachers in J&K get Rs 22,000 per month only while those having PhD get Rs 28,000. On the other hand the permanent teachers (Assistant Professors to Professors) who do the same job like contractual teachers, are paid between Rs 1 lakh to 3 lakhs per month? Isn't this injustice?
The Indian Constitution recognized the principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work through Article 39(d) and 41. These articles are inserted as directive principles of state policy which serve as guidelines to the Governments while framing laws and policies. By excluding college contractual teachers from getting regularized under J&K Civil Services (Special Provisions) Act, 2010, the previous Govt has violated this constitutional provision. Now by not adhering to court order to maintain the status-co, authorities are again doing injustice with these poor teachers who are facing an identity crisis from the last more than two decades. On this International Labour Day, I urge upon the Govt to come to the rescue of these teachers.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen fellow. He is the Founder and Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement