Children of a lesser God

By K.N. Pandita

The landmark 53-page judgment of 18 May 2015, on the petition of nearly 232 Kashmiri Pandit migrant teachers (mostly women) of Delhi State Education Department, delivered by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Rajiv Shakdher of Delhi High Court, begins with the remarkable altruism that “the petitioners before me appear to be the children of a lesser God”. This is the crux of the entire judgment. Commenting on what befell the hounded community, Justice Shakdher remarks:

A very proud set of people were made to ask and survive on State dole. Persons who were kings, in a manner of speech, in their own houses were overnight turned into paupers. It is a story of riches to rags”.

The judgment, supported by 23 documents annexed to it, records in microscopic detail how the Constitution of India, the precedents of Supreme Court, the recommendations of Parliamentary Committee, the directives of the Ministry of Home Affairs, humanitarian considerations and the rules of expediency, one and all, were most callously and willfully sullied by the then Delhi State government just because the Congress government of the day had adopted viciously hostile attitude towards Kashmiri Pandit displaced persons.

Hon’ble Justice Shakdher has conducted extremely insightful investigation into how brazenly Delhi administration of the day sabotaged the rights of these helpless bread earners bringing out rank hostility of the Congress regime of Delhi in 1990 towards them.

He states that though regular vacancies of trained graduate and post-graduate teachers existed in the Delhi Education Department and these were notified months after the Pandit IDPs were employed on contract, yet the administration stubbornly refused to adjust them against these vacancies. Conditions imposed on their contractual appointment are so stringent and inhuman as no democratic government would even think of for a community that had met with the tragedy of extirpation and exile.

Not only that, the judgment observes with regret that while 120 crore rupees were provided by the Union Home Ministry for relief of Kashmir displaced persons during the financial years 2006-7 and repeated the next year, the government utilized only Rs.69.31 crore and refused to pay them at par with regular teachers or any other facility.

The engagement was offered on contractual basis at (approximately) 1/3rd of the salaries paid to regularly employed teachers in these very schools. Faced with the prospect of extreme impecuniosities, petitioners accepted whatever came their way. “Small mercies of God could not be declined. There were no alternatives given nor was there any scope for negotiations”, observes Justice Shakdher.

The conditions of contractual appointment were as follows:

  • (a) The appointee shall take full teaching load as prescribed in the curriculum. (They were given additional workload which regular teachers refused to carry).
  • (b) The appointee shall not be entitled to any benefit of provident fund, pension, gratuity, medical attendance and treatment or any other benefits available to the govt. servants appointed on regular basis.
  • (c) The appointee will not be entitled for Govt. residential accommodation or H.R.A. in lieu thereof.
  • (d) This appointment will not grant the appointee any right or claim for regular appointment to the post.
  • (e) The appointee shall be on the whole time appointment of the school and shall not accept any other appointment paid or otherwise during the currency of the contract.
  • (f) The appointee shall be entitled for casual leave of 12 days with the approval of the principal in a year in addition to Govt. holidays. No other leave / vacation with pay will be admissible. (This was later on reduced to only 8 days. No maternity leave was permissible)
  • (g) At least a Second Class Degree involving more than 45% of marks.
  • (h) Compulsory holding of B.Ed. Degree.
  • (i) Registration as a Kashmiri migrant in Deputy Commissioner’s Office.

These conditions are reminiscent of the tyrannical regimes of barbarians and cannibals in the annals of history. History of democratic regimes will never find such ruthless and heartless treatment meted out even to a sworn enemy as was meted out to the destitute from Kashmir

In 2006, the petitioner had knocked on several doors including at the door of the then Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India. The Minister of the day vide his letter dated 10.11.2006 sought intervention of the then Chief Minister of GNCTD (Sheila Dixit) by bringing to fore the harsh and unjustified reality of disparity in the terms of engagement of the petitioners when compared with regular employees.

The brittle plea put forth by the Delhi Chief Minister on the behest of Mr. Azad, then Union Health Minister, for not regularizing these contractual teachers was that if regularized they would not return to Kashmir. The atrocious plea laid bare the animus which these two “politicos” bore towards the displaced community.

It is after shedding sweat and tears for twenty-one years that these teachers, mostly women, have been done justice not by the “democratic and secular” government of Delhi but by a Court of Law.

A sordid example of Delhi government playing ducks and drakes on this issue with the Union Ministry of Public Grievances to which the aggrieved Kashmiri contractual teachers had approached, on the one hand, and the petitioners on the other, is brought out by the judgment. In response to the note from the Ministry, the Delhi government said that “MCD has granted extension to teachers up to 30.04.2010. For regularization of teachers, MCD will take action on the analogy of Govt. of NCT of Delhi. Govt. of NCT of Delhi has intimated that at present the Govt. of NCT is not in a position to regularize the services of Kashmiri migrant teachers in view of judgment dated 10.04.2006 of Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Hon’ble Court has clearly expressed itself against regularization of contractual employees”

However, despite, the aforesaid stand taken by the Department, in the minutes of meeting dated 04.12.2009, held under the aegis of the then Home Secretary, Government of India, the Principal Secretary (Education), in the GNCTD, evidently, conveyed that the cabinet had taken a decision to absorb contractual teachers against regular posts subject to the said persons clearing mandatory recruitment test, and that, having regard to their peculiar circumstances and length of service, they would be extended relaxation in age limit and given “more number of attempts”. Alas, this was only to hoodwink the MHA as has been cryptically stated by Hon’ble Justice Shakdher, “Even this aspect, quite obviously, did not attain fruition, which is why, the petitioners are before me.”

In yet one more shameful antics of hoodwinking the petitioners, the Delhi government had tried to take shelter behind the fabricated argument that non regularization of these teachers was a policy matter of the Union Home Ministry. In response, the Special Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, vide his letter dated 18/20.04.2000 to the then Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT said that the regularization of services of the petitioners did not require the approval of the Govt. of India.

Away from the struggle of Kashmiri migrants at Delhi High Court, Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum, an NGO with ECOSOC status, and of which this writer is the Secretary General, placed a written statement before the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, on 28th of February 2015, highlighting blatant violation of the recommendations of the Convention on Women’s Rights and said: “Meting out discriminatory treatment to them contravenes the clauses of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women incorporated in Beijing Declaration announced on the occasion of the 4th World Conference on Women.

The convention states:

  • Equal rights of men and women are explicitly mentioned in the Preamble to the Charter of United Nations. All the major international human rights include sex as one of the grounds upon which states may not discriminate.”
  • stipulates: “Many women face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights because of such factors as their race, language, ethnicity, culture, religion, desirability or socio-economic class or because they are indigenous people, migrants, displaced women or refugees.
  • Again item 226 says: “The factors that cause the flight of refugee women, other displaced women in need of international protection and internally displaced women may be different from those affecting men. These women continue to be vulnerable to abuses of their human rights during and after their flight.”
  • Finally, the three-line verdict of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi is what, in the words of Shakespeare, may be called “Solomon come to judgment”. The verdict is:
    (i). Petitioners, presently, employed in schools under DOE, MCD and NDMC would be given emoluments and benefits which are paid and extended to regular employees falling in the same category, i.e., TGT and PGT.
    (ii). Petitioners, presently, employed will be regularized and for this purpose necessary posts will be created within three months from today.
    (iii) In respect of those, amongst petitioners, who have been disengaged from employment, or have expired during the pendency of the writ petition, GNCTD shall treat them as regular employees and grant them suitable benefits as would be available to permanent/ regular employees.

The purpose of writing this commentary on the case of the migrant Kashmiri Pandits is to tell them that they should not expect even the slightest iota of consideration from any government in this country; they are “the children of a lesser God”.

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