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SSC recruitment scam: Being a teacher, a distant dream in West Bengal

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The Supreme Court has dismissed the plea challenging the arrest of Manik Bhattacharya, former chairperson of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education in connection with the TET recruitment scam of 2014 while hundreds of job seekers were on hunger strike protesting against the irregularities at Salt Lake, Kolkata, and are demanding appointments.

The Supreme Court had granted protection against any kind of coercive action against Manik Bhattacharya till October 10th this year. The Enforcement Directorate arrested him on the intervening nights of October 10th and 11th this year. The Supreme Court has now confirmed the arrest as legal. Meanwhile, the job seekers who have been protesting for a very long time, have hit the streets.

The TET exam, through which primary teachers are recruited, was conducted in 2014 and is under the scanner with allegations of mass irregularities and corruption. Irregularities have not just been alleged against the recruitment of primary teachers; it has also been alleged against the recruitment of upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary teachers and staff in the exams conducted by the West Bengal School Service Commission Exam.

THE SCAM: WHAT DO WE KNOW SO FAR?

The Calcutta High Court had appointed a committee under justice Ranjit bag to investigate the SSC scam which submitted its report on May 12th this year. The report raised several concerns including the usage of RTI to procure answer sheets and increase the marks of a few candidates and manipulate the ranks and physical destruction of OMR sheets. The report also recommended proceedings against the members of a supervisory committee that was formed by the education minister and a few other officials. The supervisory committee in itself was termed illegal by the Bag committee.

The report found 222 people who did not even appear for the personality test but had gotten the job and was working. The Calcutta High Court then ordered the CBI to investigate the scam. Since then, the CBI and ED have arrested multiple officials as well as the former Education minister, Partha Chatterjee in connection with the scam. ED had seized Rs 49.80 crores in cash and gold worth Rs 5 Crore from the residence of Arpita Mukherjee, a close aid of Partha Chatterjee, former education minister of West Bengal and has attached assets worth Rs 48 Crore last month. Both of them were arrested by ED in connection with the recruitment scams. 

The CBI progress report submitted by the CBI in the Calcutta High Court placed the number of illegal manipulations of marks of candidates at 907 candidates for higher secondary and 952 for secondary teachers. The number was much higher in case of group C and group D candidates.

The Calcutta High Court on multiple occasions has ordered the appointment of deserving candidates and has also ordered the cancellation of appointments that were illegal but even after 8 years, justice has not been served completely and a lot of deserving candidates are still protesting on the streets.

WHAT ARE BEING DEMANDED BY THE PROTESTORS?

The protestors are alleging that the exam was not conducted fairly and all those who had qualified the exam in 2014 but was not included in the final list be given immediate appointment. Protestors have also pointed out to the fact that many of them has crossed the upper age limit (40) and so have become ineligible to sit for the exam which will be conducted later this year.

HOW HAS THE GOVERNMENT REACTED TO THE PROTESTS?

The President of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education (WBBPE), Goutam Pal suggested the protestors to appear in the examination which is scheduled to be conducted later this year.  He also addressed the concerns of some of the aspirants who has crossed the upper age-limit and said that the Government is considering relaxation of the upper age limit so that all those who had qualified TET in the last 10 years, shall be eligible for the exam.

HAS THE SCAM ONLY AFFECTED THE CANDIDATES WHO HAD APPLIED FOR THE EXAMINATIONS IN QUESTION?

The appointment of undeserving candidates as teachers can adversely affect the education system and the future of the state. The recruitment of teachers has not taken place in the state for years now and that has resulted in further reduction of the quality of education in West Bengal. In an UNESCO report last year, West Bengal ranked third among states with the highest number of vacancies of teachers with more than 1 lakh vacancies.

A teacher is the person a child looks up to, after her parents but when teachers are recruited by illegal means, it is sure to lead the society to its doom.

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