The political tussle between Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Municipal Corporation of Delhi-run primary schools in Delhi continues, even as teachers await their salaries, pending for months, and education of children takes a hit due to the pandemic-triggered challenges.
On Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia reportedly warned that the Delhi government will take over the functioning of the primary schools if municipal corporations fail in performing their basic duties.
All the three civic bodies in the national capital – North MCD, South MCD, and East MCD – are currently controlled by the BJP.
The development, however, brought no hope of immediate relief to corporation-employed teachers. Representatives of teachers’ bodies doubt that the warning has more to do with the upcoming Delhi municipal elections than to offer any real solution.
“The so-called warning has been made with an eye on the 2022 corporation elections by the AAP government. It offers no real solution to the hardships that are being faced by the thousands of teachers,” said Pavan Kumar Bansal, vice president, Akhil Dilli Prathmik Shiksha Sangh (ADPSS).
Economic miseries mount for around 9,000 teachers in the schools run by North MCD, who have not been paid for the last three months, as yet. The salary for the month of April was also paid to all only in July after the Delhi High Court’s intervention.
Despite that, what both the parties – AAP and BJP – are doing is “playing mere politics over the issue” – for which teachers and children are being made to pay heavy prices, Bansal added.
The matter of teachers’ salary dues had reached the high court in the month of June, following a petition filed on behalf of the NDMC teachers by ADPSS. The municipal body had then told the court that its unprecedented arrears till the month of June this year had crossed Rs. 1,000 crores – which included pending wage liability to its primary school teachers along with doctors, nurses, and safai karamcharis.
A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, on August 5, directed the NDMC to release the salaries of the teachers “at the earliest,” after recording the response from the Delhi government.
The Joint Director (Planning), Dept. of Education, Government of NCT of Delhi, in an affidavit, had told the court that over Rs. 98 crores as Grant-in-Aid towards the salary for the months of July and August have been released to the NDMC. The government has also allowed utilisation of unspent balance of the previous year, amounting to Rs. 18 crores, for the same purpose, the court was further informed.
Noting this, the bench has directed the two to submit fresh reports within two weeks and has scheduled the matter for a hearing next month on September 1.
Reacting to the information shared by the Delhi government with the court, Bansal further alleged non-disbursal of aid towards salaries of health workers and safai karamcharis, who are also associated with the municipal body. This, according to him, is also one of the reasons behind the delay in salary payments to teachers, as funds meant for it have been diverted by NDMC.
“One party has failed in making the municipal corporations function properly, while the other is looking to keep the issue alive, through whatever means, for election purposes,” Bansal told NewsClick, adding that if the AAP government actually intended to take over MCD schools, then it would have done it much earlier since the issues gripping the schools are not new.
Irked by the delay, now caused during the ongoing virus pandemic, a section of teachers have threatened to intensify the stir against the NDMC from August 16. In a notice to the NDMC mayor, issued by MCD Teachers’ Association, the teachers have warned of stopping the online classes, if pending dues are not cleared.
Responding to Sisodia’s warning, Ram Nivas Solanki, general secretary of the teachers’ association, said that the schools must run only by the authority “which can pay salaries on time and ensure good education to children”.
In a note to the Principal Secretary of the Urban Development Department, Sisodia had raised the matter on Monday following complaints that children have not been provided with textbooks yet, even as five months have passed in the current academic year. There are approximately 3.5 lakh primary students, enrolled in 714 North MCD-run schools.
Ira Singhal, director of the press and information department, NDMC, while speaking with NewsClick attributed the delay to “some issues” in the process of purchasing books. “The purchase order has now been made after a new budget was approved which took account of the increased prices of the books,” she said.
Asked about the pending salaries of the teachers, she said: “Whatever the corporation has received [from Delhi government] till now under the salary heads, it has been disbursed.” She further pointed tothe “financial constraints” that the body is facing in the aftermath of the pandemic-triggered lockdown.
Durgesh Pathak, AAP’s MCD in-charge in Delhi, accused the corporation officials of being “corrupt” and demanded that “its functioning must be given to the Delhi government.”
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, national president, All India Parents Association (AIPA), who has also filed an application in the High Court on behalf of intervenors in the NDMC teachers’ matter, took to twitter to “fully support” the proposal of Delhi government taking over all MCD run schools. “We have not only demanding it for last over 2 decades but have also twice filed PIL in DHC (Delhi High Court) (sic),” he wrote.
Also read: India Is Back To A Time Before The Bhopal Gas Tragedy