The Bihar Post

Contractual teachers issue: How Nitish Kumar gets caught in his self-woven web!


PATNA: What was once widely publicised as his “masterstroke” is now proving to be a proverbial noose slowly around the neck of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.If he ignores this issue he will instantly lose the massive support case but if he supports, his government’s financial condition will be in a shambles!

One of the first decisions that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had taken soon after coming to power in Bihar in 2005 was to appoint around four lakhs teachers on contractual basis purely on the basis of marks, and not the merit.

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The idea was to create a strong vote-bank for himself and initially it worked too with the chief minister winning the next two elections with comfortable ease.

12 years one, the idea has now literally turned out to be an albatross round his neck. Even as he tackles one problem, the next arises.

The fresh trouble has arisen after the Patna High Court in landmark judgement ruled that the contractual teachers were entitled for getting salary at par with the regular teachers appointed in government.

A division bench comprising chief justice Rajendra Menon and justice Anil Kumar Pandey gave the judgment while hearing a bunch of petitions from contractual teachers who demanded “equal pay for equal work”.

Reports said the court has also asked the government to pay arrears with retrospective effect from 2009.

But, the problem before the government is that it doesn’t have enough money to pay such huge salary and clearing arrears of teachers. Authorities said it was just impossible for the government to implement the HC.

“The arrears amount itself comes to around Rs 75,000 crores and to pay them would mean suspending the entire welfare projects running in the state. From where will this amount come?” asked Bihar chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh.

Further, implementing the HC order would entail on state exchequer an annual financial burden of around Rs25,000 crores—which is currently the budge of the whole education department, authorities revealed.

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At presently, the state government has been spending Rs 10,000 crores on making salary payment of these teachers.

“If the HC order is implemented, the state government will have to spend Rs 15,000 crores more annually while a huge amount of them— Rs 7,200 crores—comes from the funds under Sarv Siksha Abhiyan,” an official said.

Left with no option, the state government has now planned to move the Supreme Court in appeal but this has only enraged the contractual teachers who are said to be backbone of primary and secondary education in the state.

The angry teachers have not threatened to go on indefinite strike from February next year if the government didn’t implement the HC order by 31 January next year.

The move is set is set to disrupt academic system in the state as both the matriculation and intermediate examinations are scheduled to be held from February next year.

“We strongly condemn the state government’s decision to move the Supreme Court against the HC decision. The move is not only the contempt of the court but also an attempt to deprive teachers of their rights,” a meeting of various teachers’ organizations held in Patna on Sunday declared.

This is not the first time that the chief minister is facing their anger. Initially, the contractual teachers were appointed on a monthly salary of Rs 5,000, Rs 7,000 and Rs 9,000 but later his government had to regularize their services following indefinite strike by them in the past.

The result was many of his rallies were disrupted by the teachers. Under pressures, the chief minister not only had to regularize their service but also hike their salary.

The problem does no end here. Ever bigger trouble is that the Patna High Court’s order for “equal pay for equal work” has prompted the contractual staffs in all government departments such as health and agriculture to make similar demand.

Today itself, the chief minister faced the angry contractual nurses shouting slogans against him at a function in West Champaran. The chief minister obviously looks getting caught in his own web!

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