Plight of Kashmir’s College Contractual Teachers

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Teaching has always been a noble profession and from time immemorial it has been a privilege for everybody to be a teacher. Teaching is an honour in itself as teachers’ community is the most respected community in every society. This respect and honour should not be on the basis of teachers working capacity or condition. A teacher is always a teacher regardless whether he or she is working on the permanent basis or on contractual basis; whether he or she is teaching at higher or lower level.

Teachers are supposed to be nation builders ergo mental peace and honour of a teacher is must for the bright future of a society.  But when we talk of the college contractual teachers in Kashmir, the story is pathetic. Here college contractual teachers are treated as untouchables and a step motherly treatment is given to them by government authorities. They are emotionally humiliated, falsely promised and morally exploited. Though they take part in each and every curricular and co curricular college activity at par with permanent faculty but they work on very meagre monthly remunerations. Rather some departments in some colleges of the Kashmir valley are totally handled by contractual teachers as there is no permanent faculty member available in those departments.

They have been working as good as regulars in colleges for decades now albeit without a legal and financial sanctity attached to a regular job. They are denied any job security and successive governments have only prolonged their misery by promising a job policy, the promise no government ever kept. Every year after the end of the academic session they are kicked out of the system and  they have to apply again  to compete with new entrants in order to get again engaged for the job.

With all these issues and the fear of losing their only earning some of the college contractual teachers moved court for justice during the academic session of 2017-18 and 2018-19. The Honourable High Court of Srinagar directed the concerned authorities to continue their engagement and allow them to work in the colleges till the final judgement of the court comes. The court issued status quo orders in favour of teachers. However despite court orders the authorities have not released their salaries from last eight months, though they continue working in the colleges. This has pushed the contractual teachers to financial ruin. As for most of us this is our only income for survival. we and our families are suffering badly from last eight months. The concerned authorities turning a deaf ear to the repeated orders from courts regarding the salary release of contractual teachers has created a sense of hopelessness among the teachers. Government is giving false justifications for not releasing the salary of contractual teachers from last eight months. I would like to clarify here the false justifications from government authorities for not releasing the salary of college contractual teachers.

Summer Vacation and Valley Lockdown

Last year the Higher Education Department announced summer vacations from 1st of August in the colleges of the Kashmir Valley and on 5th of August 2019 curfew was clamped on whole of Kashmir following the abrogation of its special status. All the government colleges were officially closed till 9th of October. The government authorities are claiming that the contractual teachers did not attend the colleges during this period so they can’t claim for their salary. I wonder whether permanent faculty and non teaching staff attended the colleges during this period as their salary has been released for this period. All other departments in Kashmir remained shut during this period, but only the contractual teachers were denied their wages. It is pertinent to mention here that during the turmoil period of 2016, when colleges remained shut for an extended period, our salary was released. One more thing I would like to add here  is that our salary was not deducted during previous summer vacations but unfortunately it was denied during this years vacation.

Meagre Classwork

After 9th of October, 2019 the colleges were officially reopened and the college contractual teachers also resumed their duties but unfortunately some of the college principals didn’t allow them to enter the colleges in clear violation of the court orders. Even some principals badly humiliated them and didn’t allow them to resume their duties. The authorities are falsely claiming that there was meagre classwork in the colleges at that time which was managed only by permanent faculty but the fact is that the contractual teachers were also delivering lectures wherever principals allowed them. Besides the contractual teachers actively participated in other college assignments during that period like conducting practical examinations,  preparing awards, guiding and counselling students and other likely activities.

Winter Vacations

The colleges were again closed for winter vacation from 21st of December, 2019 till 7th of February, 2020. As per government orders college contractual teachers are also allowed to observe winter vacation during every academic session without deduction of their salaries. But unfortunately the concerned authorities are stating that contractual teachers can not claim for salary as the colleges were closed because of winter vacation. After 7th of February, 2020; the college contractual teachers again resumed their duties and actively participated in teaching learning process and other assignments in colleges, though firstly they were not allowed to attend classwork by some principals.

The worthy Director of Colleges issued an order on 5th of March this year stating that they have not disturbed the status quo position of college contractual teachers and their engagement continues till the final decision of the Honourable High Court. Despite these facts our salaries have not been released from past eight months which has made our life miserable. During the present disastrous situation in Kashmir ,aggravated by the pandemic, we are in utter frustration as most of us have no other sources of income and our families are totally dependent on us. It is high time for the concerned authorities to look again into the matter, address our grievances and release our salaries at the earliest , so that they we do not suffer.

Abid Hussain Rather
A College Contractual Teacher
Sopat, Devsar, Kulgam
rather1294@gmail.com

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