Selection for recruitment to various posts in different departments of the Central and state governments has started to bite in recent years. The system has been made to collapse in such a brazen manner that the hope of qualified youth with aspirations – of dignified jobs – is fast turning into illusion. The way they are treated by the system is adding insult to injury to the already suffering unemployed millions.
The latest addition to such endless instances from across the country, of irregularities and criminal violation of procedures, is that as many as 1,983 P.T.I.s (Physical Training Instructors), who had been working as permanent teachers in Haryana schools for the last ten to twelve years, were removed from their jobs on June 1, 2020 – after the Supreme Court termed their selection process faulty. Consequently, the credibility of constitutional bodies like the selection commissions, has yet again come under public criticism.
The manner in which misuse of political power is being wielded with impunity is in direct contrast to the price being paid by the innocent candidates, who were not in any way held guilty by the courts. The sacked PTIs have gone on indefinite sit-ins in all districts in Haryana even in the face of COVID-19.
All of the removed teachers – a sizeable among them women, are between 45 and 50 years of age. The affected teachers have responsibilities, children and livelihoods to look after. The over-aged teachers are now also ineligible to apply, adjust to another job and get themselves going again. Among the lot are many well-known athletes of their time. During their tenure, they helped budding sportspeople to hone their skills in their respective schools.
At the 'Khelo India' event of 2018, Haryana clinched the overall trophy in the below-17 age group due to athletes chiseled by these sacked PTI teachers. Importantly, in these games, players brought glory to the state by bagging 102 medals including 30 gold, 26 silver and 38 bronze medals.
It is why they are now receiving overwhelming support from the different sections of the public.
Many prominent sports personalities have been writing letters to the Chief Minister with an appeal to reinstate the affected teachers, who are on the verge of retirement. Family members of 40 of the PTI teachers, who had passed away during their job tenure, were being able to make both ends meet due to salaries provided on compassionate grounds.
Nearly 400 of the teachers had been promoted to DPE posts. From details of the matter, it appears that the honourable court was not apprised of their ground reality by those in power.The matter seems to have been viewed by the government from a political prism, which is quite unfortunate.
Interestingly, the Haryana government was extremely agile in sacking around 2,000 teachers from different categories, who did not prefer to wait for the dismissal process as directed by the Supreme Court during the lockdown period, that it showed them the door on June 1 itself.
Serious eyebrows were raised due to the over-enthusiasm with which the government, otherwise passive in seeing judicial orders through, implemented the apex court order and sacked the PTI teachers.
The state of affairs of unemployment in the state can be gauged from a glaring example from the recent past, in which 23 lakh youth applied for 18,000 D category jobs. Many of them were graduates, post-graduates and or science scholars. Similarly, 20,860 candidates had applied for these 1983 posts of PTI teachers.
Haryana is not the lone state where unemployment is wrecking landscapes earlier dependent on farming-based economies.
At one point in time 65% of the population depended on the farming sector for employment, which contributed 64% to the economy. Today, when the contribution of agriculture to the economy has been reduced to 16%, 65% of the population has not gone anywhere. The result is terrible unemployment.
Apart from the service sector, no agro-based small-scale industries were developed which would cater to the need of increasing employment. This problem is even more serious in newly created states with small economies.
The unemployment rate in Haryana is about 29% as of now, a number higher than other neighboring states. Due to lack of proper employment opportunities and a dignified life, a large number of youth are getting into drugs and crime.
To curb the deteriorating law and order situation, the intervention of sports and its teachers can be instrumental in preventing youth from going astray. Never have successive governments ever formed a planning commission to discuss a way out of this quagmire by adopting a scientific approach.
Today, with 50% of the population below 25 years of age, a young nation has to chart its course.
The electorate, who reposed faith in their leaders and kept them in power only received setbacks after the latter reneged from their poll-time promises. It is no surprise that the former Chief Minister of Haryana and his son are serving jail sentences today due to the lack of transparency in the recruitment process.
More skeletons may tumble out from within the political fraternity, if a fair probe is conducted in the recruitment process during tenures of other former Chief Ministers, and even the present one.
Sample this: An FIR was lodged under serious allegations of corruption in Madhya Pradesh against the Chairman of the Higher Education Council in the present government. Even after the public made a hue and cry for his removal from the post, the incumbent regime was caught protecting the culprit at every step.
On July 1, the Punjab and Haryana High Court slapped a notice on the Haryana Government and the Haryana Staff Selection Commission regarding irregularities in the selection of 1624 junior engineers.
Over the past 30 to 35 years, the situation has been such that the government advertises a job, collects money through a form filling process, but fails to conduct an examination in a professional manner. The menace of paper leaks adds another dimension to the sad state of affairs.
If the selection list comes up somehow, it is then challenged in court. The painful journey to get hold of a joining letter spans years.
Now, the sacked PTI teachers join those suffering due to the existing system and are rightful in their hunger strike in all districts of the state. Protesters alleged that if the Supreme Court found the Service Selection Commission guilty, why are PTI teachers, who invested 10 years of their lives, taking the fall?
If the government needs to act with agility, it is on transforming the functioning of these very commissions, working with an anti-democratic character, rather than kicking out hard-working government employees. It is an open secret that merit is compromised to place touts in the high-paying jobs in these commissions, so that they can be exploited at the whims and fancies of their political masters.
If we scrutinise this very case in question, it is evident that those holding chairs had no interest in making the system accountable and transparent, but showed more interest in adjusting their ‘own people' by tossing norms into the air. The verdict given in this case given the system in place is beyond logic. On one side, the apex court has held the service selection commission responsible for its actions, for mocking the recruitment process, and announced punishment for those with no fault of their own.
Admittedly, some of these candidates may have sneaked in using 'influence' but most of them would have been selected on their own merit as well. The principle of justice is that even if two are left guilty, a single innocent should not be punished.
The government should find a way to save the PTI jobs on humanitarian grounds, as well as immediately appoint other degree holder job aspirants on the vacant posts.
With the questionable reputation of the recruitment board in mind, there is an urgent need to make radical changes in the formation and functioning of recruitment commissions in the state. The selection process by the commissions has lost the confidence of people, who wonder how long the state would have to bear the consequences of vested interests.
In the face of terrible unemployment, it is high time that these institutions are fully fortified.
By taking immediate steps to make the process of recruitment commissions transparent and their functioning fair, logical and equitable, the lost credibility of these constitutional institutions will be restored.
Only then the youth can be saved from becoming scapegoats, over and over again.
Translated from Hindi by Sat Singh
The writer is a Bheem Awardee Volleyball player. The views are personal.