Dr. Asangba Tzüdir
It is more than a month now since the NSSATA teachers started the pen-down strike on May 2, 2018 followed by boycotting of classes from May 11 to push for two main issues – Transfer of their irregular salary from plan to Non plan, and their salary to be effected by 7th ROP. The protest reached the State Capital where, on the fifth day the sit-in protest turned to hunger strike by some section of the teachers. Seeing the development, the NSF and ENSF negotiated with the Directorate of School Education, whereby, an agreement was made to pay the 7th ROP and for the department to rectify the nature of their appointment. A review meeting will be done at the Principal Secretary’s chamber in the presence of NSSATA members on July 12 at 2:30 pm. Further, the department shall then present the issues to the cabinet before the review meeting. On this agreement the agitation stands suspended for the time being.
Their demands comes from the justification that the post advertisement (No. ED/ADMN/1/2009-10 and No. ED/EXAM/2010-11) was done under the Department of School Education as regular State employees and nowhere was it mentioned that the posts were advertised under SSA. Further, it was only in their appointment letter that it was mentioned that the posts were created under SSA, but their appointment came with a Pay band and Grade Pay under New Pension Scheme with all other allowances and rates as prescribed by the Government of Nagaland from time to time. To substantiate the nature of advertisement, through a ‘NSSATA clarification,’ which was reported in this paper, it mentioned that in response to RTI No. SSA/NAGA/RTI 3/2010-2011 Dated September 30, 2013, the department had stated that the post creation “is not done by SSA, it is a Government of Nagaland undertaking. Hence, teachers are appointed on a regular basis and their service is not co-terminus with SSA project” which therefore makes their demand not only right but legitimate.
An ‘interesting’ aspect is that, in the year 2016, the department of School education had given a written assurance vide no. C&S/SE&SCERT/MISC/2016 stating that “the inclusion of the salary of SSA teachers under Non-plan shall be taken up at the appropriate time.” Time has passed by swiftly and another ‘appropriate time’ has come with the approval for the merger of SSA, RMSA and TE (Teacher Education) into SAMAGHRA SHIKSHA from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020. Immediate questions emerge under this expanded scheme where, a pertinent concern for the State Government will be to address the ‘processes’ involved in rolling into the new scheme even as teachers find themselves in the dark once again about their ‘status’ under the new merged scheme. Thus, the demand by the teachers for inclusion into non plan becomes more pertinent.
The teachers cannot afford to keep waiting for this ‘appropriate time’ and the Government cannot keep on ‘extending’ by saying “Just Trust Us.” The prayer for trust cannot simply be accepted especially when the concerned department continues to create trust deficit. As a case in point, the Principal Secretary has categorically stated regarding the transfer of salaries from ‘Plan to Non Plan’ that, at present there is not much difference between the two whether one is paid through Plan or Non Plan. Such callous responses have only triggered further angst among the agitating teachers.
Now with some time bought, it is time for the Government to sincerely address their genuine issues and demands and which has also been agreed upon, and come out with definite remedial measures, because the agitation is just put under suspension for now and the battle has only began. This remedial process should begin from the root of the fault line which lies in the contradiction between advertisement and appointment letters. As such, based on the job advertisement order, their appointment letters should first be reviewed.
A kind of ‘bio-political’ relationship has emerged between the SSA teachers and the School Education Department over denial of rights which tantamount to undermining the ‘right to life.’ Having crossed tolerable limits, it is only natural for human conscience to seek a moral order and justice which resulted in the month long protest. Yes, the students have suffered through this lengthy agitation, yet, spare a thought for the SSA teachers fighting for their ‘rights’ which were ‘stolen’ and placed within an ‘unknown and uncertain status.’
(Dr. Asangba Tzudir is a Freelance Research and Editing Consultant. He contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to email@example.com)