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SSC to shut down hill office

Darjeeling, Jan. 9: The state government has decided to close down the office of the West Bengal Regional School Service Commission here, sealing the fate of the 220 odd empanelled candidates and the office staff.

An order issued by the school education department (secondary branch) on December 28 states that 'as per the government policy, the school education department has decided to wind up the office of the West Bengal Regional School Service Commission, Hill Region, Darjeeling'.

The order, which has been signed by P.K. Goswami, special secretary to the government, reached the district magistrate's office today.

The instructions in the order states that the district magistrate should take charge of the furniture and other articles of the SSC office and pay all dues, like rent, by January 31, 2006. The district magistrate's office has also been told to file a report on the measures taken to the school education department at the earliest.

The order is a clear indication that the state government no longer wants to retain the SSC in the hills and with the DGHC opposing the transfer of the commission to its jurisdiction, there seems little hope for the 220 odd candidates here, who already passed the SSC examinations in 1997 and 1999.

The government, it has been alleged, has consistently bowed to the whims of the DGHC on this issue. Though the high court had passed an order on October 3, 2001 declaring that there was no ban on appointing the selected candidates, the state failed to force the DGHC to implement the said order.

The state had also mulled the transfer of the SSC to the DGHC. However, the council had cited Clause 15/A of the SSC Act 1997 and maintained that the SSC should not be applicable to the hills as the schools here were linguistic minority institutes.

A PIL was also filed by the Hill Organiser Secondary Teachers' Association. The association comprises teachers who were appointed by the DGHC to the hill schools on an ad hoc basis.

The issue is still pending at the high court and though the matter is sub-judice the government has gone ahead, issuing the order. The district authorities are also in a fix regarding the fate of the five staff members who are currently working at the SSC office here.

With district magistrate Aariz Aftab currently on leave, the issue is not expected to be re-addressed soon.

The staff have been demanding that they be accommodated in some other department, failing which they will go for 'democratic forms of protest in the coming days'.

The DGHC stand on the SSC had always been ambiguous. The appointment of candidates selected in 1997 was stalled by the council on the ground that the hills should have its own SSC.

Then when the hill zone was created, the DGHC demanded that the SSC be transferred to the DGHC.

Now, the council maintains that the SSC is not applicable to the hills.

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