Published: 22nd November 2018
Get 16k, return 6k: Dalit teachers complain that Karnataka schools ask them to 'return' a portion of their salaries to school fund
A complaint has been placed by teachers from several schools who have revealed this injustice — but those campaigning the cause say that most fear losing their jobs so they remain quiet
According to a petition filed by a Dalit school teacher, several schools in Karnataka are cutting huge parts of the teachers' salary without rhyme or reason. The petition only lists out the names of the schools that Dalit teachers have come out with but the petitioner alleges that this is happening in several schools. However, teachers are not willing to come forward with their stories because they fear they will lose their jobs.
The petitioner, Balakrishna C, has been teaching for ten years and says that schools in Karnataka have been practicing this unfair system for decades now. He says that from the already meagre amount that they earn, which is around 17,600 rupees, almost five to six thousand goes back into the school fund, "Many teachers say that the schools demand anywhere between Rs 3000-10,000 from their salaries. If they don't give the money or question the authorities, they are immediately fired from their jobs as there is no job security either. So the teachers remain quiet. But this has gone on long enough now," he said.
Incidentally, the schools don't cut the money before the salaries are credited, in order to show supervising authorities that they fulfill the minimum wage requirements, the schools grant the entire amount to the teacher. But a couple of days later, the teachers are required to withdraw the money themselves and give it to the school, Balakrishna said. The teachers receive their salary by the third of every month and by the tenth, they are required to withdraw and return a part of their salary to the school. The teachers say they are never given a reason as to why — some teachers though say that the reason given to them is that the school is facing a cash crunch, "When it came to fees though, the school always collects humongous amounts." Most of the schools also don't provide PF or ESI to the teachers despite it being a rule to do so.
The WhatsApp groups that Balakrishna has created to connect all the teachers is rife with complaints about the salary cut but when Balakrishna requests that the teachers go on record, the group goes quiet. Currently, Balakrishna and his team have only managed to get about seven schools on the list and this list has been submitted to the Bureau Education Officer and the head of the taluk besides other education officers.
Since it has been happening for a long time, Balakrishna decided to bring private school teachers from across the state to come together and stand up against this practice. The WhatsApp groups that Balakrishna has created to connect all the teachers is rife with complaints about the salary cut but when Balakrishna requests that the teachers go on record, the group goes quiet. Currently, Balakrishna and his team have only managed to get about seven schools on the list and this list has been submitted to the Bureau Education Officer and the head of the taluk besides other education officers.
"There are lots and lots of teachers who are yelling on the groups about this injustice but everyone is scared for their jobs. No one wants to say their school's name," Balakrishna said. Geeta Venu, (name changed), one of the teachers who has mentioned that name of her school said that it is a worry that all the teachers share, "The minute the school authorities get wind of it, the teacher will be fired. They don't have any sort of job security so they'll be risking their entire livelihood if they came forward. Another scare is that there are teachers on the group itself who will rat people out to the schools," she said.
She laments that the state of affairs is pretty abysmal. "Out of the 16,400 that I earn, Rs 6,400 goes back to the school administration. I've been doing this for the last ten years — since the day I joined. I haven't questioned it once but now I'm done. I want to bring up this issue, it needs to be addressed. These are well-to-do schools that will collect hefty fees but not pay their teachers even a decent amount. Just tell me what I can do with 8000 or 10,000 rupees today? How can I run a family?" Venu asked. Venu is encouraging other teachers to come out with names too, "I tell them we're not going to the police station or even the court. We just have to present this to the education committee, but even that people are not willing to do," she added.
Recalling an incident involving a colleague, Venu said that a female teacher had decided to quit her job at a school after a year of harassment at the hands of the management. "When she requested the authorities to return her original documents, they refused and demanded that she pay them two months salary in order to receive them. Since then, she has been running from pillar to post to get her certificates. But this is how it is for all of us, constant harassment," she explained.
For now, the team that is working on the issue, is waiting for other teachers to brave up and reveal names. Till then, they have to await the investigation that the education department has promised them.