A showdown is brewing between the Haryana government and the many former physical training instructors (PTIs) who were terminated in May 2020. And, not surprisingly, in a state that is known for its athletes, the teachers have managed to secure solidarity from almost all sections of working population.
Solidarity and support has poured in from students, farmers, teachers, state transport workers and government employees from across Haryana – all of whom have come together demanding reinstatement of 1,983 training instructors.
The services of PTIs were terminated in the month of May by the state education department, following directions from Supreme Court, which quashed the appointments – made as early as in 2010 – noting “arbitrariness” in the selection process.
Earlier this month, in a Maha Jan Panchayat organised in Jind district, which saw a total participation in thousands, comprising organisations representing aforementioned groups, a final ultimatum was issued to the Manohar Lal Khattar – led state government, following which the agitation is set to get bolstered.
“We have given time to state government till July 25 to consider the reinstatement of all the physical training teachers, who had lost their job and with it, their livelihood amid the corona crisis,” said Papendra Pal, one among the sacked PTIs, who spoke with NewsClick over phone from Rewari.
“If our demand is not heard, we will then take it to the streets; block all the roads and bring the whole of Haryana to a halt. For this, we have the support of over hundred khap panchayats and several workers’ bodies,” he said.
Engaged in several indefinite sit-ins at secretariat offices in all 22 districts in the state since mid-June, the training instructors claim this to be the only option they are left with as dire stress has gripped them and their families.
On Tuesday, July 21, as part of their sustained campaign, a havan was organised at all the protest sites, accompanied by prayers that the state government develop “good sense”.
The sacked training instructors, majority of whom are in their 40s, are worried about being forced to find a new job amid the pandemic-triggered economic distress.
Jagmati Sangwan, a women’s rights activist based in Haryana, pegs more difficulties for the women, who, according to her, are among the “worst affected groups” by the terminations. Of the total now sacked PTIs, women constitutes over 40%, she said.
“A substantial number of woman trainers were even widows, for whom the instructor’s job in schools was the sole means of subsistence. They are now left in a lurch – at an age at which they are more vulnerable to economic hardships,” she said. What choices do they have, other than to protest against a state government that is unfortunately handling this issue, by viewing it from a political prism, Sangwan added.
The recruitment of the training instructors were made in 2010 under the then Congress government led by Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The “over-enthusiasm” shown by the current ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Jannayak Janata Party coalition government in effecting the quashing orders has prompted many to question the political undertones of the move.
Moreover, the PTIs’ episode highlight the issues marring the selection processes in Haryana, believes Subhash Lamba, state president of Sarv Karamchari Sangh (SKS). According to him, the state recruitment institutions that should perform in an independent manner, often act as per the “whims and fancies of those holding political positions in the ruling government.”
“The selection commissions are often accused of corruption. Many a times, procedures are being tweaked to favour some sections of candidates. This has been happening for many years, and if not stopped, it will continue like this only,” he said.
In view of the observations made by the apex court regarding the PTI’s recruitment process, an FIR has now been lodged against the then Haryana Staff Selection Commission, its members and officers.
Despite this, the question remains: why must the candidates pay for the wrong doings, if at all, of the officials, that too after providing their services for ten years. This is the main reason behind the overwhelming show of support to the protesting training instructors, according to Chander Navdeep Bharti, state president of School Teacher Federation of India, Haryana.
“For years, sections of government employees including computer and guest teachers have been staging protests demanding regularisation. Now, with the termination of even the regular jobs [of training instructors], a message has reached them that even these are not protected,” he said.
As a result, the local sympathy with the protests of the training instructors is very strong, Bharti added. “People in Haryana know the fear of losing a job too well now; and the distress of being unemployed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pal further told NewsClick that, apart from the political agitations to press for reinstatement, an appeal has also been made to the Supreme Court, asking it to review its April Judgement. The hearing is scheduled for July 29.