Bhiwani, Haryana: The cold reality of prison sentences handed down to 55 government officers and politicians — including INLD chief and former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay — for illegally recruiting over 3000 junior school teachers, has sent a chill down the spine of Haryana’s corrupt.
In what came to be commonly referred to as the JBT (Junior Basic Training) recruitment scam, the then Chautala-led government was indicted of receiving money from candidates to fix their selection as junior teachers in 2000. On January 16, a special CBI court concluded a five-year trial holding the conspirators guilty of corruption.
Firstpost visited Bhiwani district, which was Ajay Chautala’s Lok Sabha constituency in 2000 – the year of the JBT recruitment scam. Not surprisingly, Bhiwani became a ‘favoured district’ for selection of candidates for JBT.
Days after the stunning verdict that sentenced the guilty, prison terms between 10 and four years, its impact has only begun to play itself out on the ground, starting, of course, with the state’s government schools where the illegally recruited teachers have been working for the last 12 years.
The sixty-year-old Rajkiya Adarsh High School currently has one teacher among its staff who was recruited during the 2000 JBT selection. Under renovation and grappling with more students than its infrastructure and resources can handle, the high school runs in two shifts and caters to 1400-odd students.
A discussion with the headmaster and school staff of the High School provides a glimpse into how the verdict is being received in the state and what its potential implications for governance in Haryana are.
“After this verdict there is a feeling among people that there can be justice in India. Government officers have become alert. The fear of meeting the same fate as those indicted in the JBT scandal has gripped them. If anybody makes a mistake - be it a top government officer or a worker - and there is a complaint, the law will catch up with them. That realisation has come,” says Satish Shastri, the school’s Sanskrit teacher.
Adds Rajender Singh, the science teacher, “If five more such judgments come, it will send out a strong message. Then government officials will refuse to do wrong and illegal acts, even under pressure. Even the politicians will be scared.”
Corruption in recruiting government school teachers – of which the 2000 JBT scam is widely believed to be only one of many and by no means the one instance – has brought with it a falling quality of school education, say teachers.
“It has had an impact on the quality of education. During Bansi Lal’s time, for example, teachers were recruited purely on merit. I have trained many batches of teachers and candidates from those batches were highly qualified and were a class apart. It is children who suffer when unqualified teachers are recruited. Selection of teachers should be merit-based because it is a question of children’s education,” says Krishna Yadav, headmaster of the school.
The most visible impact of the verdict, however, is the anxiety and fear of that has gripped teachers who were recruited in 2000 and whose future as teachers remains uncertain, especially after the court’s observation that they should not be allowed to continue in service.
While the Haryana government is yet to decide on whether the teachers will be allowed to continue, they remain on tenterhooks faced with a potentially devastating prospect of losing their jobs after 12 years of service.
Jangveer Kasania, district president of the Primary Teachers Association, says there are about 400-odd such teachers who are currently teaching in Bhiwani’s schools. Every day since the judgment on January 16, Kasania says he has been addressing meetings of worried teachers who are in a state of panic.
In Bhiwani’s Rajkiya Prathmik Paathshaala (primary school), Dani Malyan, three of the seven teachers were recruited in 2000. The verdict has hit the teachers hard, says Veena Malik, in-charge of the school. “They keep to themselves. They seem to have gone into a depression. They are not in any frame of mind to take classes even. The children are also suffering.”
An additional worry for Rani, should the teachers be removed, is staff shortage she will face. “There are not less than 55 students in a class. I cannot manage with just four teachers. If the government decides to remove three of my teachers, they should ensure that we get new teachers immediately,” she says.
Initially reluctant to talk, one of teachers who didn’t wish to be identified, spoke about the impact the case has had on him. “We have been suffering from the day the case was filed. It has been ten years of feeling bad and living with uncertainty. I considered the option of getting another job but for that I would have had to leave this job and get another diploma. I would like to tell the government that we have worked sincerely. We submitted our papers, we got the interview call. There was no question of dishonesty in our selection…I’ve put ten years of service. I draw satisfaction from that.”
Another teacher Vinod, 36, also from the same primary school, says losing a job at this stage in his life will leave him with very few options. But more than the financial insecurity, it is the emotional burden that worries him. “My biggest worry is not whether I will be able to feed my family but the anxiety it will cause my parents. It is possible that I will find some way to fend for myself and my family, but they will continue to worry about me and how I will get by,” says Vinod, who has two school going children.
He also speaks of the impact the investigation and trial has had on him and his family. “Those of us who were recruited in 2000 have always felt that we were treated differently by our colleagues and the society in general. They refer to us the ‘2000 walleh’. There is nothing I can do about the social stigma. It will stick with me for life.”
Standing solidly behind the teachers, Kasania, the president of Bhiwani’s Primary Teachers Association, says that teachers who were recruited should not be held responsible.
“We read the judgment. The teachers have not been held guilty. Teachers were not made party to the case. We were not called to give evidence by the court. If we had been, then everything would have become clear,” he says.
For now, all eyes are on the government for its decision on the teachers.