Darjeeling, Sept. 23: The Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation (JSTO) has sought clarification from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration on the decision to show-cause teachers for failing to attend school during the hill strike period.
The JSTO has said its members, about 2,200 in total, would not reply unless it is given the notice through a proper procedure.
The union, which is the biggest for teachers in the hills and backed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, said no procedures were followed while handing out the show-cause notices. It also said that GTA’s education department was bypassing the managing committee of schools that are partly aided by the government.
In case the education department is unhappy with the reasons given by the teachers for remaining absent, the government will slash their salary. The state government had earlier made it clear that hill employees who did not attend work on the strike days should be ready for a pay cut.
Kiran Kumar Lohar, the executive director of the GTA’s education department had on September 9, 2013, directed the district inspector of schools, both primary and secondary, to show-cause the teachers for being absent on the strike days.
The notice, which mentions the executive director of the GTA in the letterhead, says “it is evident from the attendance register that you have absented yourself from your duty with effect from 29th July to 14th August 2013 and 19th August to 30th August 2013 without prior intimation to the office of the undersigned”.
It adds that staying absent in this manner was “in violation” of government rules. “All State Government employees were required to report for duty during the bandh,” the notice said.
It also stated that the reply should reach the office of the executive director or joint executive director within “three days” of the teacher receiving the notice.
The majority of the around 7,000 teachers — both primary and secondary — have not replied yet.
The JSTO wrote to Lohar on September 18, seeking clarifications on the notice.
Tshering Tamang, the JSTO general secretary, said: “The letter (show-cause notice) was delivered in some cases by unknown persons, and contained no specific address. In various blocks, the circle inspectors are just handing over the notices to anyone who goes to the office without addressing it properly. Unless, proper procedures are maintained, how can we reply to the notice?”
Tamang added: “The administrative, financial and executive control of all non-government aided schools have been handed over to the GTA…. Hence, it needs to be clarified if the exercise conducted by the department of education, GTA, was done according to the policy and direction of a competent authority otherwise such an exercise would be deemed arbitrary and… hence may have legal ramifications.”
The union also questioned if the education department had infringed upon the jurisdiction of school managing committees. Like in the rest of the state, the managing committee in most hill schools are formed of teachers of the school, representatives from among parents, and a local representative.
In the rest of Bengal, such schools are known as government-aided schools. In the hills, they go by the name of non-government aided schools.The union, in its letter to the executive director of the GTA, said: “The heads of institution and staff working in non-government aided schools are responsible to the managing committee of the school…. Hence such departmental action may amount to breach of jurisdiction of the managing committee.”
Tamang also raised questions on the number of working days. “According to the headmaster’s manual, the annual working days for hill schools is 195. If the salaries are deducted, does this mean that the teachers are to teach for only around 160 days this year? The teachers are holding classes even on Saturdays to ensure that students are taught for 195 days,” he said.
R.D. Meena, the GTA principal secretary, could not be contacted today despite several attempts. A senior official of the state education department said: “Anyone can question the procedure of serving the showcause notice. The crux is that the government cannot give salaries to teachers who have not attended work, especially when there was a standing order in this regard.”