Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has come under fire after the Kolkata High Court quashed the selection process for teacher recruitment in upper primary schools as undertaken by the School Service Commission for nearly 15,000 vacant posts.
The opposition Left Front has demanded the state education minister’s resignation on this issue while accusing the current Trinamool Congress (TMC) government of eroding the state’s primary education system.
The verdict, delivered on Friday by Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya, cancelled out of turn empanelment of tens of thousands of applicants of 2014 upper primary TET (Teacher Eligibility Test) in the state. The court said that “irregularities are stark” in the selection process and directed the Commission to start the process afresh on January 4.
It may be recalled that the court had earlier, time and again, warned the state government against this, said Samim Ahmad, the lawyer who appeared on behalf of some of the petitioners. He said that if the interim orders issued by the court had been taken into account, then this situation would not have arisen.
In 2014, lakhs of TET aspirants took the test to be recruited as teachers against vacant posts. The exam was held on August 16, 2015. A year later, on September 14, when the exam results were published, about 1,20,000 examinees had passed it. During the next phase, the interview process to verify information was started and rampant corruption issues involving government and administration machinery were unearthed and cases were launched in different courts of the state.
On October 1 last year, the school education department had prepared a merit list of 26,000 candidates. This led to a large number of candidates moving high court alleging that even though they were qualified and had a B.Ed degree, their names were not on the merit list which featured less qualified candidates.
“Recruitment rules had been violated during empanelment of candidates for recruitment after the test result and only a miniscule few were able to get themselves empanelled as clarity was missing in the entire process,” said Senior Advocate Bikashranjan Bhattacharya, who is also the President of All India Lawyers Union and a Rajya Sabha MP of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “Even marks were altered, the court has noted, and hence, the entire selection process of upper primary school teachers stands cancelled,” Bhattacharya added.
From 2005 to 2011, during the last tenure of the Left Front government, Professor Ranjit Basu headed the School Service Commission whereby every year tests were held routinely and results were published. Basu said, “In our time, the court didn’t need to intervene in the process. Even the publication of results was done as per the schedule,” he said.
Left Slams Mamata Govt
Meanwhile, the Left Front has stepped up its attack on the TMC government on issues of alleged mis-governance and corruption after the high court order. Sujan Chakraborty, leader of the Left Front Legislative Party in the West Bengal Assembly, had even sought a clarification from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the Assembly floor over the TET issue and sought resignation of state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee over the deadlock.
“In all these years of its rule, the government has many times failed to empanel bona fide applicants as Upper Primary Teachers and many deserving candidates have also fallen in the dragnet of not being selected. Who will take the responsibility for this?” Chakraborty told NewsClick.
The CPI(M) leader accused the state government of “non-performance” and being “despotic” which is why “such unprecedented things have been happening”. He also demanded that the state government should publish the empanelled list with clarity on its website and should also take steps for quick recruitment of the job aspirants.
Instances of job aspirants paying lumpsum money to empanel themselves have emerged, but the court order has made these attempts difficult, according to reports published in Ganashakti, the CPI(M) mouthpiece in the state.
Report Shows Deteriorating Educations System
According to a report by Pratichi Trust and Tech Mahindra Foundation, the condition of upper primary education in Kolkata is on a downward slide where the state government is not being able to even provide caste certificate to all eligible students. However, at the same time, it is trying to gift students state of the art wi-fi devices.
Interestingly, in the state’s urban areas, only 0.4% of the students belong to Scheduled tribes, 11.4% are from Scheduled castes, 2.2% are from Other Backward Castes (OBC) background while 17.2 % are from Muslim minority communities.
Pratichi Trust also pointed out that even in Kolkata city, 30% primary schools have no separate classrooms for different classes, and 83% primary schools do not have any library; the housing infrastructure of 59% primary schools is also in a dilapidated state.
The report says that about 40% primary schools in Kolkata city do not have a boundary wall. The toilet arrangements for girl students are at 37:1 ratio, much worse than boys at 31:1. The appointed teachers are engaged 40-50 days in election related work.