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Rs 21.75 to Rs 8390 in 31 years

For 31 years and two months, his monthly cheque would read a shameful Rs 21.75. For the month of May ’04, the cheque he got in hand read: Rs 8390.00.

Na pete pete amar emon obostha hoyechhe je porer mashe erom ekta cheque pabo ki na, sondeho hochhe (Having got so used to not getting my due for so long, I am not sure whether I will get such a cheque next month, too),” said a hesitant Pranab Sengupta.

The primary teacher’s apprehension was understandable — on Tuesday, justice took its first steps towards him in three decades.

Sengupta has been getting only Rs 21.75 per month since joining Basak Bagan Primary School in March 1973 and his crusade for justice in Calcutta High Court dates back to 1992.

“I am happy that my long struggle has not gone waste,” said Sengupta, at the high court on Tuesday afternoon to submit the documents that accompanied the cheque he had been fighting for.

Signed by the chairman, North 24-Parganas district primary school council, the letter, dated June 7, 2004, confirms the despatch of “the cheque bearing number D 398196, dated 2.06.04, of Rs 8,390” to Pranab Sengupta of “43, Basak Bagan, Patipukur”, in compliance with the high court order.

For council chairman Biswanath Roychowdhury, the acceptance of the cheque by Sengupta is vital to his own salary.

On May 22, 2004, Justice K.J. Sengupta of Calcutta High Court had ordered the salary of the chairman, North 24-Parganas district primary school council, to be attached for not carrying out its earlier directive to start giving Sengupta his due salary.

With Sengupta depositing the cheque on Tuesday, Roychowdhury should now be assured of his salary for May.

“The arrival of this cheque signals the council’s approval of Sengupta as a teacher of Basak Bagan Primary School since 1973. Now, they are bound to keep paying him his monthly due (Rs 8,390) and the arrears for 31 years, with interest. He is also entitled to pension post-retirement,” said Saibalendu Bhowmick, the lawyer fighting the primary schoolteacher’s case since 1992.

The 56-year-old Sengupta lives with a 10-member extended family in “rented accommodation” at Basak Bagan, in north Calcutta. He joined the locality’s primary school as an assistant teacher in 1973 for a meagre “pocket money” of Rs 21.75 from the contingency fund, pending approval of his appointment from the school council.

That approval — and, therefore, a cheque of anything more than the starting amount — has taken 31 years to come Sengupta’s way.

In 1978, the state administration declared Basak Bagan Primary School a government-aided school and took up the responsibility of paying the teachers. The education department, however, refused to pay Sengupta’s salary as his appointment had not been approved by the district primary school council.

The schoolteacher then moved Calcutta High Court and Justice P.K. Mukherjee passed an order directing the education department to clear Sengupta’s appointment and pay him according to the existing scale, along with his dues.

The primary school council challenged the order, but the division bench upheld the order of the trial bench.

With the primary school council refusing to obey the orders of the court, Bhowmick filed a contempt petition against the council, as well as the directorate of school education.

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