Jalaluddin with the appointment letter in Itahar on Monday. (Nantu Dey)
Raiganj, Nov. 19: Twelve days before turning 60, Mohammad Jalaluddin, who had “always dreamt” of becoming a teacher, joined a primary school — the result of a long legal battle that promises little as returns.
Jalaluddin’s case shows how justice delayed could mean justice denied. The farmer today seemed happy that his lifelong dream to be a schoolteacher was fulfilled, but he will not get anything other than a few days’ pay.
If Jalaluddin wants to claim arrears and other benefits, he will have to file a fresh plea in court.
The farmer went to Madhabpur Free Primary School this morning on his first working day at the age of 59. “I have always been keen to teach in a school. My childhood idols were my schoolteachers. I passed my school finals but could not finish college because of financial reasons. I began farming on our small patch of land and teaching village children for free,” said the resident of Suron, 10km from here.
In 1981, Jalaluddin was drafted to work for the census, which made him eligible for a quota in primary school teaching jobs. In 1995, he applied and appeared for the primary school teacher recruitment test in the exempted category. The minimum educational qualification required for the category is school finals. Jalaluddin, born on December 1, 1952, was 43 then but within the age limit for exemption that is 45 years.
According to Jalaluddin, his name had appeared on the list of 153 successful candidates in North Dinajpur who were shortlisted after the viva. But when the district primary school council sent the list to the state primary education board for approval, there were only 100 names, instead of the 153. Jalaluddin’s name was not there.
The farmer went to the high court. “As the long (legal) battle continued, I sold most of the land I had. I had 20 bighas and now I have only five. Since my elder son opened a shop selling seeds, pesticides and fertilisers, our financial condition has stabilised a little in the past seven years,” he said.
Jalaluddin said although the maximum age limit for applying in the exempted category was 45 years, the high court ordered in 2010 that he be allowed to appear for the exam in 2010, by which time the farmer had turned 58. “In 2010, I sat for the examination again. But the results were not published. I drew the court’s attention to this. On August 8, Justice Maharaja Sinha directed the North Dinajpur district primary school council to appoint me as a primary schoolteacher.” “I am elated having achieved what I had always dreamt of,” Jalaluddin said. The appointment letter mentions today as the date of joining. But Jalaluddin turns 60 on December 1, and has to retire on November 30.
Education law expert Ekramul Bari said in Calcutta: “The newly-appointed teacher will only get the salary for 11 days. According to the West Bengal School Teachers’ Service Rules, a teacher has to complete at least 10 years in service at a stretch to get a pension. The question of getting gratuity does not arise. To get arrears or any other benefits, the person will have to move a separate petition before the court.”
Jalaluddin’s eldest son Mohammad Barkat said everyone in the family was happy. “From my childhood, I have been seeing him wanting to become a teacher and he spent most of his life to achieve that.”
Jalaluddin did not seem worried about the returns. “I am least bothered. What is important is the recognition I have got as a schoolteacher. I will spend the rest of my years happy.”