A great villainy

A great villainy

Education is a great leveller, one is often cajoled. Given the state of affairs in Nagaland, it won’t be an outlandish assertion to affirm otherwise. Two latest revelations make one lost confidence in the often stated rhetoric of transparency and accountability as well assertion of ensuring a quality education for all.

The first issue is an order passed by the Kohima Bench of the Gauhati High Court asking the State of Nagaland and 177 others respondents to appear before the court in four weeks from the publication of its notice on February 21. The Court was acting in response to a Writ Petition – WP(C) 12 (K)/19 – filed by the Nagaland NET Qualified Forum and 20 others in the case of alleged ‘backdoor appointments’ in the Nagaland State Department of Higher Education.

Allegedly, 175 persons, mostly Assistant Professors across various government colleges in Nagaland were hired without an open advertisement. “These appointments were made between 2016 and 2018 without the following procedure to publicly advertise for vacancies,” one member of the Forum informed. Discovered after filing ‘several RTIs’, it maintained that appeal to the concerned department and minister went unheeded.

The other issue is the startling revelation by the Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio in the State Assembly on Friday on February 22 that out of a total of 246 Government High Schools (GHS) in Nagaland, 38 are currently running without a headmaster/headmistress (HM) while 32 are without both HM and assistant HM. The CM informed this “against the backdrop of an alarmingly poor performance by government schools in the annual board examinations.” The CM, as well as the concerned Minister, assured “rationalization process” to correct the anomalies. Besides the regular salary issues plaguing the teachers, the absence of administrator is cause for serious concern.

Most ominously, the issues pertain to both lower and higher education, having grave ramification for the students.

Putting the figures in context with the recent data on the live register of employment exchanges in the state is telling. The Annual Administrative Report 2018-19 of the department of employment, skill development and entrepreneurship informed that as of December 31, 2018, there were 75,046 applicants on the life register.

Out of this, 5,919 were postgraduates while the remaining were either graduates and below or diploma holders. The total number of employees in Nagaland in the organized sector as on December 31, stands at 90,785 – 84, 762 in government sector and 6,023 under private sector. Curiously, Minister for Health & Family Welfare also informed the Assembly that while the department had served show cause notice to 315 unauthorized adhoc employees, it was, however, recalled citing technicalities.

In the light of such revelations, one can safely assume that the ‘backdoor appointments’ continue unabated despite government unfailingly issuing circulars and OMs to that effect at regular intervals or lofty promises to curb the malaise of irregular appointments. A far cry from a government whose main constituent motto is ‘Deeds not words’ and the State’s Cabinet first meeting had promised to “make all out efforts to implement good governance initiatives, implement transparency and promote a culture of meritocracy.”

The biggest fallout of the present of ‘irregular appointments’ in the higher education is that it is making villains out of several qualified educated job seekers due to the perpetuation of a systematic decay while denying other (including the aforementioned 5,919) the basic fundamental rights of equal opportunity in employment guaranteed by the constitution.

Given the seriousness of the issue and its implication for future, it is imperative that that government implement for concrete changes to curb the ‘systematic villainy’ instead of cajoling the people with lofty recycled rhetoric.