The state’s education minister has promised them their salaries before Diwali but the teachers are not convinced.
Sukhdeo Paswan, Umakant Kumar, Sanjeev Jha, Binit Manjhi, Mahender Yadav and Santosh Kumar Singh are six among nearly 3.5 lakh contractual school teachers in Bihar, locally known as ‘Niyojit Shikshak’, who are upset and worried ahead of Diwali.
The festival of light is likely to remain dark for them as they have not been paid their monthly salaries for nearly six months. They failed to celebrate Dussehra (Durga Puja) for the lack of money and they are not sure if they will be paid their dues before Chhath, the most popular festival of the state that is celebrated six days after Diwali.
“It is going to be a dark Diwali for us. It is difficult to celebrate the festival without salary. It has become difficult for us to even run the family,” Sukhdeo, a contractual teacher in Vaishali district, told NewsClick.
His view was echoed by Umakant, another contractual teacher in Araria district. “How can you expect a contractual school teacher like me to celebrate Diwali without salary? It is the only source of livelihood for me,” he added with visible worries on his face.
Both of them expressed concern over the non-payment of salaries for months owing to the alleged apathy of the state government.
“Majority of contractual teachers belong to the poor socio-economic background and are facing a bad situation. There are contractual teachers, who have been facing a starvation-like situation due to non-payment of salaries,” said Sukhdeo.
Sanjeev, a contractual school teacher in Saharsa district, narrated the same story adding that that festivity is missing for him. “I was hopeful to get salary after Durga Puja, but nothing happened. It pained us. We have already celebrated Durga Puja without salary, now Diwali is coming. Contractual teachers should be paid their monthly salary on time if not anything,” he puts forth.
However, Bihar Education Minister K. N. Prasad Verma said contractual school teachers have not been paid their salaries due to the delay in preparing software to ensure that they get the benefit of the Seventh Pay Commission.
”We are trying to pay them salary before Diwali and certainly ahead of Chhath,” he added.
But Gajender Sharma, the leader of contractual school teachers group said that he is not impressed with the assurance given by the minister.
“The minister (Verma) had announced to pay us the salary ahead of Durga Puja but failed to do so. He is repeating the same promise once again. We too have families, children and social life. How can the government ignore all this and leave us in the lurch,” he said in a fit of anger.
According to him, all this is a part of the deliberate strategy of the top brass of state administration to put contractual school teachers always in stress by creating constant trouble.
Officials in the education department said the state cabinet has already approved revised pay scales for its employees, pensioners and contractual government school teachers with effect from April 1, 2017.
“But it has not been implemented so far,” they added.
Binit, a contractual teacher in Arwal district, said it is a horrible time for him to manage his family without salary.
“I am a Dalit and I don’t have landed property. I am fully dependent on salary for survival. Unlike other contractual school teachers from dominant upper castes and OBCs, I am poor and was upbeat when joined the job. But I am still struggling to cope with life,” he added.
He has been facing problem at a social level as well. “It is not the first time that I have not been paid the salary for months. In the past also, I have faced a similar situation. My relatives and co-villagers have begun to treat me as a government employee, who has no financial problem after I joined as a teacher. None of them realizes that my financial position is not good. So now they expect a lavish show on festivals,” he said.
Mahender, a contractual school teacher in Madhepura, regrets his decision to join the government job leaving a well-paid private job in Ludhiana in Punjab. “I am extremely disappointed with the way the government treats us. How can you expect teachers to give students good education when they are struggling to make ends meet,” he added.
Different people have different problems. This non-payment of their salaries have made their lives hell. Mahender has been waiting for salary to take his mother to Patna for medical treatment.
“In July this year, I promised my ailing mother to take her to a hospital in Patna. But I could not fulfil the promise so far due to lack of money,” he said.
Contractual teachers have been agitating regularly and the event went on strike nearly two years ago, demanding pay at par with regular teachers and better working conditions in schools. They demanding equal pay for equal work. They get less salary than regular teachers.