Ageing teachers dream of government jobs in Rajasthan
In 1998, the Rajasthan government embarked on a drive to recruit Grade 3 teacher through zilla parishads (district councils). Many unemployed youth applied for these jobs. The recruitment was to be done on the basis of merit. However, due to bonus marks being granted, many who scored less managed to get ahead, while those with far better scores were denied jobs.
It was two decades ago that these unemployed youth mounted an agitation under the aegis of the Akhil Rajasthan Chayanit Shikshak Sangh (ARCSS). Since then, they have been regularly holding protests, but are yet to be recruited in spite of several assurances.
The full story - illegalities and allegations
On June 15, 1998, the Panchayati Raj & Rural Development Department invited applications for the recruitment of Grade 3 teacher to 8,000 posts in 30 zilla parishads (barring Sawai Madhopur and Karauli). Besides imparting marks on academic merit, additional 10 bonus marks were to be awarded to those residing in Rajasthan, 10 bonus marks were to be given to those from the particular district, and 5 bonus marks were to go to those from rural areas.
Kailash Chand Sharma of Karauli filed an appeal against this system in the Rajasthan High Court. The High court bench granted a stay to the appointments and referred the matter to the division bench of High Court. The division bench then declared the provision of bonus marks illegal and upheld the stay.
ARCSS Chairman Pradip Paliwal told 101Reporters: "Prior to this, the High Court had declared the provision of bonus marks illegal on October 21, 1999, when adjudicating in the matter of the Deepak Suthar vs State of Rajasthan. This was in relation to a suit challenging bonus marks granted in 1995-96 for the recruitment of second and third grade teachers.
"In November 15, 1999, the court had again declared the provision illegal in the Nawal Kishore Sharma vs State of Rajasthan matter. On February 26, 2001, in a response to an appeal by Nawal Kishore Sharma and 22 others, the court called for the bonus marks model to be discarded and for another merit list for recruitment to be prepared. Appointments made prior to October 21, 1999, as per this order, were not to be disturbed."
Teachers staged multiple protests in Jaipur to seek justice with regards to being appointed for the jobs they had applied for on merit basis.
The court's directions were to be brought into effect within 45 days of their passing, but the Rajasthan government did not do so. Instead, it appealed against it a month later. This appeal was dismissed on April 13, 2001.
The state government then filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court and directed all zilla parishads to prepare new lists for recruitment, in keeping with the High Court order of April 13, 2001. Those who did not figure in the list prepared post-October 21, 1999, were to be removed from service after being issued a notice. The new recruitments were to be effected without any bonus marks.
On July 30, 2002, the Supreme Court declared the granting of bonus marks unconstitutional, in the Kailash Chand Sharma vs Rajasthan Government matter. It also declared that in keeping with its judgement, the recruitment of candidates would have to be done all over again.
This is when, Paliwal alleged, many irregularities were resorted to. Ignoring court orders, the government continued to recruit candidates on the basis of bonus marks. In fact, 1998 saw the highest number of teachers recruited.
On July 1, 2004, the Primary Education Department (Legal Cell) issued an order. It was followed by another order from the education secretary, wherein bonus marks were to be ignored and suitably qualified teachers recruited. But these orders were not implemented, neither was another direction issued by the commissioner of Primary Education on March 1, 2006. Instead, officials kept adding bonus marks on whim and continued to recruit teachers until 2018.
Saya Devi, Pradip Paliwal, and Purushottam Kaushik are three of the many teachers in Rajasthan awaiting a government job for 25 years now.
The sordid saga of the unemployed
Saya Devi of Sri Ganganagar was 26 years old when she had applied for a job; she is 50 years old now.
"I was married very young, after which I moved to Bikaner. Since I wanted to do something in life, I continued with my studies. I completed my BA, B.Ed and MA, even as I attended to household chores and my three children. In 1998, when the government announced openings for Class 3 teachers, I applied for a position in Nagaur. While the cut off for the merit list for women was 64 per cent, I had scored 76 per cent. I clearly deserved a place, even without any bonus marks. But the confusion that followed deprived me of a job."
Purushottam Kaushik of Hanumangarh said, "I was 27 years old when I applied for a position in Barmer. I'm 52 now. In spite of scoring 61 per cent, I wasn't given a job, while those with much lower marks were recruited. If the court orders had been followed, I'd have had a government job. I now teach in a private school for a meagre Rs 7,000."
Similarly, Balwant Singh of Lalgarh Jattan is a 55-year-old teacher from an Other Backward Caste (OBC) who had applied from both Sriganganagar and Barmer.
"In spite of scoring 72 per cent, I could not get a job, while OBC candidates with just 49 per cent marks got selected," he told 101Reporters. "I am compelled to work in a low-paid position at a private school."
Jaipur-resident and ARCSS President Pradeep Paliwal is now 47 years old. He had applied in both Jaisalmer and Barmer after scoring 65.5 per cent.
"My marks were 6 per cent higher than the cut-off in both districts. Yet, I could not secure a job. Today, I run a private school."
The unending struggle for justice
Narrating her long story of struggle, Saya Devi pointed out how they had been fighting for the last 24 years for the jobs they rightly deserved.
"Sit-in protests (Dharnas), demonstrations rallies, fasts - we tried everything for justice," she said. "In 2008, I went on an indefinite fast. On the sixth day, the police admitted me to a hospital. After that, I, along with three other unemployed teachers, climbed up a water tank in Jaipur. The police booked us for attempt to suicide. Paliwal and three others were booked for instigating us to commit suicide. All seven of us had to spend a night in jail."
"For 10 years, we had to pursue our matter in courts. Ultimately, we were cleared in 2019. One of our colleagues died in the process."
Govt passes the buck
Pressure generated due to the long-drawn agitation saw the government form four committees from time to time to look into the matter - but to no avail. A committee was formed under then minister Rajendra Singh Rathod to look into the issue during the chief ministerial tenure of Vasundhara Raje.
"Although the committee accepted that irregularities had occurred in 1998, we failed to get justice," said Paliwal.
The state legislature also took up the matter on many occasions for discussion. But the government side-stepped the issue on the ground that various departments - the Rajasthan Public Service Commission, the Panchayati Raj Department and the Primary Education Department - had handled the recruitment of teachers over the years, and hence, it'd not be possible to address the problem now.
Currently, these teachers are pinning their hopes on Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Paliwal recently called on him to try and find a solution to the long-standing problem.
Meanwhile, 101Reporters tried to contact Rajasthan Education Minister BD Kalla to get his views on the issue. But despite several attempts, he remained incommunicado.
(The author is a Hanumangarh-based freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)