An RTI reply by the Bengal government stating that the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has not been accorded the authority to conduct the teacher eligibility test (TET) has raked up a fresh controversy as the hill body held this test in 2021 before the Assembly polls.
It is estimated that over 14,000 applicants sat for the exams held on February 14, 2021. Clearing TET is the minimum qualification for a primary teacher’s job.
Its results are not yet out.
Ajoy Edwards, the president of Hamro Party, on Friday stated his party's team filed an RTI on May 3 before the state school education department on the authenticity of the 2021 TET exams.
The RTI filed by Phinjo W. Gurung of Darjeeling asked who was the competent authority to hold TET exams in all of Bengal. Gurung also asked if GTA had authority to conduct TET exams in GTA areas, if prior permission is needed from the state government to hold this exam in GTA areas and if the hill body had taken the required permission to conduct the 2021 exam.
A school education department official in the RTI reply stated that the West Bengal Board of Primary Education was the competent authority to conduct TET exams in all the districts of Bengal.
The RTI reply also stated that the GTA was not accorded any authority to conduct the TET exam in the GTA area.
“The response to our RTI request indicates that the GTA neither had the authority nor permission to hold TET exams in the hills, thereby confirming the allegations from
various quarters and the general public that this was done solely to secure votes for the three (hill) MLAs (candidates in 2021),” alleged Edwards.
“These actions transpired during Anit Thapa’s tenure as the head of GTA.”
With thousands waiting for results, the issue has come to the forefront two days before the Thapa-led Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) is set to organise a “mega rally” in Darjeeling for land rights.
Sources in the GTA, however, defended the GTA’s move.
“In 2021, there were 652 vacant teachers’ posts in the GTA area. Now the number of vacant posts has crossed 1,200. The GTA simply wanted to conduct the TET to fill these posts,” said a source.
The official said that the GTA went ahead with the exam as there were enough “written documents” to suggest that education was a fully transferred subject and the hill body could take its own decisions.
“Officials of the state education department have in the past told the GTA in writing that since the department is transferred, the hill body should take decisions on certain issues. For example, in 2022, the hill body was asked to resolve a pension issue of a hill teacher and told it (education) was a transferred subject,” said an official.
The GTA official further stated that the process of TET had been followed and the exam papers were still kept stored in a strong room sealed by the police at Lewis Jubilee Complex, an office complex of the GTA in Darjeeling.
“We are in the process of getting results published and are in touch with the state government. In fact, we want recruitment boards like School Service Commission, sub-ordinate selection board, etc., to be made functional in GTA area,” said the source.