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JET’s lone soldier bids adieu today

- Sans chairman, tribunal left with 11 workers; private school disputes pile up
JET office in Ranchi

Ranchi, Sept. 10: Nine months after being virtually rendered defunct in the absence of a full-time chairman, Jharkhand Education Tribunal (JET) is set to lose its lone existing member even as no effort is being made by the state to get the quasi-judicial body functional again.

Retired IAS officer Narendra Bhagat, the only existing member of the original three-member tribunal, will complete his term on Tuesday. Then on, JET would be at the mercy of 11 contract workers, who have gone without pay for the last 13 months in the absence of a salary disbursing authority, and an employee of the human resource department.

Since December 20 last year, when JET ceased to operate normally, more than 50 cases of alleged injustices perpetrated by private school authorities have piled up for hearing.

The tribunal was set up in 2005 with the primary aim of settling disputes between private schools and students/teachers. JET also has jurisdiction over recruitment in schools. It can exercise powers against poor teaching standards, exorbitant fee structures and dearth of adequate infrastructure.

It is supposed to monitor condition of school buses and also hear matters relating to educational institutions as referred by the government. Its order can only be challenged in the high court.

When asked when the tribunal was likely to get a chairman, a post that has been lying vacant since L.P.N. Shahdeo retired in August last year, Bhagat sounded helpless.

“You are talking about a chairman when even I, as member (administration) am going to complete my term on Tuesday afternoon.”

When The Telegraph visited the JET office last week, labourers deputed by the building construction department were busy installing a new flooring, which did little to reassure the existing employees who appeared anxious.

“After Justice Shahdeo completed his term, we expected that some of his powers would be given to the member (administration) to run JET smoothly, but he was forced to sit idle for 13 months. We have not got our salary for 13 months as there is no one to draw and disburse it, a task that the chairman carried out,” a worried employee said.

The tribunal had three members when it was constituted. In 2010, its strength fell to two after member (education) Narendra Sharma passed away. On August 18 last year, the number dropped to one after Shahdeo retired.

The situation in the JET office is so bad that telephone lines have been disconnected over unpaid dues and employees have no access to stationary items.

Despite a PIL being filed in Jharkhand High Court, nobody knows when a chairman would be appointed to make the tribunal functional.

Neither the human resources development minister nor the secretary was available for comment. However, chief secretary S.K. Choudhary admitted the problem and said the file related to the matter was with the chief minister’s office.

Said high court lawyer Sanjay Pandey, who has worked with the tribunal: “Since JET is not functional, teachers of private schools, who have grievances against their management are suffering. They want to go to high court, but that again is not recommended.”