The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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21 years on, 21.75 teacher gets dues: marching orders

Calcutta, Nov. 10: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government, it appears, is now loath to part with even the Rs 21.75 it has been paying Basak Bagan Primary School teacher Pranab Sengupta for 21 years.

The North 24-Parganas District Primary School Council has asked the headmaster of the school — governed by the council — to ensure that Sengupta does not take classes any longer.

Virtually arm-twisting the headmaster, who had told the council that he would handle the Sengupta case in accordance with the ruling of Calcutta High Court now hearing the case, the council has asked the school management to get rid of Sengupta.

“I direct you not to allow Sri Sengupta to attend the school and take classes, which you have done illegally,” said council chairman Madhusudan Chakraborty. The harshly-worded order to headmaster Bikash Chandra De disregards that the high court has not disposed of the case. A copy of the order is available with The Telegraph.

If De is to give effect to the order, the hapless Sengupta — suffering because of the council’s alleged refusal to obey repeated court orders — will have to go without the only income he has been getting for the last 21 years.

The contempt petition filed by Sengupta’s counsel, Saibalendu Bhowmik, came up for hearing on Thursday in the court of Justice Barin Ghosh. However, the divergent responses from the counsels for the two respondents — the state government and the council — forced the court to fix November 14 as the date of the next hearing.

The government’s counsel, Amal Basu Choudhury, told the court that his client was not standing in the way of Sengupta’s regularisation. Pabitra Kumar Basu, the counsel for the school council, however, said a “stay order” from another bench of the high court was preventing it from carrying out the directive to regularise Sengupta in his service and pay him his arrears.

Sengupta’s pitiable condition was brought to light in July by The Telegraph in a series of reports, hoping to sensitise an indifferent administration to the need for restoring dignity to the school teacher. The reporters had given a graphic description of how Sengupta, employed as a teacher at the primary school at Patipukur, was drawing the same pay he started with in 1981 and his — till date unsuccessful — fight for justice.

Calcutta High Court, after being petitioned by Sengupta, directed the council to regularise his service and pay him the salary for permanent teachers with arrears.

The council, however, chose to disregard the directive, forcing Sengupta to file a case alleging contempt of court by the council.

Following the media expose, Chakraborty paid a visit to the school in September. But, instead of helping Sengupta and following the court’s directives, Chakraborty allegedly castigated De after he saw Sengupta taking a class. De was allegedly coerced into stating in writing that Sengupta was not a teacher of the school but a trespasser.

A day later, De, however, realised his mistake. In another letter to the chairman of the council, he wrote that he was letting Sengupta take classes on the basis of a Calcutta High Court directive. He attached the relevant orders of the court with his explanation.

Now, however, De finds himself in a spot for doing what the court told him to do. He now faces an allegation that he is “conniving with Sengupta and abusing his responsibility” of being the school headmaster.

Chakraborty has threatened De with prosecution for allowing Sengupta to go on taking classes. “Your conduct… amounts to misconduct (sic)…, warranting disciplinary proceedings against you, for which steps would be taken soon in accordance with the law,” the letter states.

Council chairman Chakraborty was not available for comment.

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