Abid Hussain Rather
Teaching has always been a noble profession and from time immemorial it has been a privilege for everybody to be a teacher. Teaching is an honor in itself as teachers’ community is the most respected community in every society. The respect and honor of a teacher should never be biased on the basis of his working capacity. A teacher is always a teacher regardless whether he is working on the permanent basis or on contractual basis; whether he is teaching at higher level or lower level. Teachers are supposed to be nation builders ergo mental peace and honor of a teacher is must for the bright future of a society. But when we talk of the college contractual teachers in Kashmir, the story is totally different and pathetic. Here college contractual teachers are treated as untouchable and a step motherly treatment is given to them by government authorities. They are emotionally humiliated, falsely promised and morally exploited. Though they take part in each and every curricular and co curricular college activity at par with permanent faculty but they work on very meagre monthly remunerations. Rather some departments in some colleges of the valley are totally handled by contractual teachers as there is no permanent faculty member available in those departments. Instead of working continuously for decades in colleges and being eligible to work in colleges they are not provided with any job security rather they are again and again falsely promised of framing job policies for them by government authorities. Every year after the end of the academic session they are kicked out of the system and they have to apply again to compete with new entrants in order to get again engaged for the job. With all these things in mind and in the fear of job insecurity some of the college contractual teachers moved to court of law for justice during the academic session of 2017-18 and 2018-19. The Honorable High Court of Srinagar directed the concerned authorities to continue their engagement and allow them to work in the colleges till the final judgement of the court and issued status quo orders in their favor. Despite court orders the authorities have not released their salaries from last eight months, though they are continuously working in the colleges, resulting in the pathetic condition of the contractual teachers. As the only source of income for most of them is only their contractual job, they and their families are suffering badly from last eight months resulting in their utter frustration. The concerned authorities are turning a deaf ear to the repeated orders from Honorable Court regarding the salary release of contractual teachers and are giving false justifications for not releasing the salary of contractual teachers from last eight months. I would like to clarify here the false justifications from government authorities for not releasing the salary of college contractual teachers.
Summer Vacation and Valley Lockdown: Last year the Higher Education Department announced summer vacations from 1st of August in valley colleges and on 5th of August curfew was declared in whole valley due to abrogation of article 35A. All the government colleges were officially closed till 9th of October. The government authorities are claiming that the contractual teachers did not attend the colleges during this period so they can’t claim for their salary. I wonder whether permanent faculty and non teaching staff attended the colleges during this period as their salary was released for this period also. All other departments in the valley remained close during this turmoil period, but only the salary of contractual staff in colleges was not released. It is pertinent to mention here that during the turmoil period of 2016 our salary was smoothly released. One more thing I would like to add here is that their salary is not deducted during summer vacations of every academic session but unfortunately summer vacations during this period is also made an excuse for not releasing the salary.
Meagre Classwork: After 9th of October, 2019 the colleges were officially reopened and the college contractual teachers also resumed their duties but unfortunately some of the college principals didn’t allow them to enter in the colleges violating the court orders. Even some principals badly humiliated them and didn’t allow them to resume their duties. The authorities are falsely claiming that there was meagre classwork in the colleges at that time which was managed only by permanent faculty but the fact is that the contractual teachers were also delivering lectures wherever principals allowed them. Besides the contractual teachers actively participated in other college assignments during that period like conducting practical examinations, preparing awards, guiding and counselling students and other likely activities.
Winter Vacations:The colleges were again closed for winter vacation from 21th of December, 2019 till 7th of February, 2020. As per government orders college contractual teachers are also allowed to observe winter vacation during every academic session without deduction in their salaries. But unfortunately the concerned authorities are stating that contractual teachers cannot claim for salary as the colleges were closed because of winter vacation. After 7th of February, 2020; the college contractual teachers again resumed their duties and actively participated in teaching learning process and other assignments in colleges, though firstly they were not allowed to attend class work by some principals. The Director Colleges issued an order on 5th of March this year stating that they have not disturbed the status quo position of college contractual teachers and their engagement is continue till the final decision of the Honorable Court. Despite these facts the salaries of these teachers have not been released from past eight months which has made their life miserable. During the present disastrous situation in valley they are in utter frustration as most of them have no other sources of income and their families are totally depend on them. It is high time for the concerned authorities to look again into the matter, address their grievances and release their salaries at earliest, so that they may not suffer more and get rid from their piteous conditions.
(The author is college contractual lecturer at GDC Kulgam. Views are his own, email@example.com)