The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Teacher in salary freeze sequel

A court order for each month’s salary. That, it seems, is what Pranab Sengupta will need to get his meagre schoolteacher’s due.

The mastermoshai at Basak Bagan Primary School — paid Rs 21.75 as a monthly salary for over 31 years — had won a 12-year legal battle in June when, following a Calcutta High Court prod, the district primary school council finally handed him a pay cheque for Rs 8,390.

On Thursday, he was back in courtroom no. 7 for his June salary and recognition as a permanent teacher of the government-run school.

Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta issued a directive freezing district primary school council chairman Biswnath Roy Chowdhury’s salary “till further notice”.

Sengupta’s lawyer Saibalendu Bhowmick claimed his “client” was yet to receive his cheque for June. “It doesn’t feel right returning to you every month. Last month, after you intervened, my client received his salary. But this month, it has stopped again,” said Bhowmick.

“The council was under the impression that the court had cleared Sengupta’s salary just for the month of May. We probably got it wrong,” was the defence lawyer’s reasoning.

On May 22, the high court had stopped Roy Chowdhury’s salary only till Sengupta’s was disbursed. This time, the judge took more stringent measures. Even if mastermoshai’s June dues are cleared, Roy Chowdhury will have to wait his turn till the court gives the go-ahead.

The council has been given six days to get its act together and pay up. On Wednesday, when the court session begins, the case will be the first to come up for hearing. The poor man’s paycheque has been “prioritised”, in court at least.

Justice Sengupta did not take the council’s line of defence lightly. “You mean to say the court ordered only a month’s salary' Do I need to pass an order every month'” he thundered. The court asked the council to pay Sengupta’s salary once again and to look into clearing his arrears.

Sengupta started work at the Basak Bagan school in March 1973 as an assistant teacher. His post was not made permanent till May 2004, till which time, he had to be satisfied with his starting salary.

While justice may now be on his side, the teacher from Patipukur seems perilously close to break point. Sengupta may have won the battle, begun way back in 1992, for the right to work with fair pay, he continues to wage the war for the respect he has been denied.

“I am still not sure how long this will continue. I just hope I can pull through,” sighed the 56-year-old. “Even after the court’s intervention, I have to fight for my monthly pay cheque. And how much more time and money will I have to spend for the fight'”

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