Recruitment rip-off: a thorn in West Bengal govt.’s flesh

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Recruitment scam: a thorn in West Bengal govt.’s flesh

2022-10-28 00:37:19

A CBI probe into allegations of cash being taken for appointments in State-run colleges and the arrest of an ex-Minister by the Enforcement Directorate have put the Trinamool Congress authorities led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a good spot. Protests by jobseekers and outrage over the restoration of giant quantities of money from associates of key TMC leaders have supplied contemporary ammunition to the BJP and the Left Entrance to focus on the federal government

A CBI probe into allegations of cash being taken for appointments in State-run colleges and the arrest of an ex-Minister by the Enforcement Directorate have put the Trinamool Congress authorities led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a good spot. Protests by jobseekers and outrage over the restoration of giant quantities of money from associates of key TMC leaders have supplied contemporary ammunition to the BJP and the Left Entrance to focus on the federal government

The onset of autumn brings a whiff of disappointment in West Bengal because it coincides with the tip of Durga Puja festivities. This yr, nonetheless, it’s turning out to be a season of protests in opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) authorities.

On October 8, the federal government had organised a carnival to have fun UNESCO’s recognition of ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, however authorities busy making preparations to showcase the award-winning tableaux of almost 100 puja committees on Pink Highway within the State capital noticed bother.

Lower than 100 metres from the venue of the mega occasion, beneath the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Mayo Highway, candidates who had cleared the State Degree Choice Take a look at in 2016 have been staging a protest demanding appointment as academics in State-run colleges. One other group of protesters had camped across the statue of freedom fighter Matangini Hazra subsequent to town’s iconic Shahid Minar. The police urged them to vacate the spots and never maintain protests on October 8 citing “safety causes”. The protesters obliged, however resumed their stir with renewed vigour the day after the occasion.

A probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into allegations of cash being taken for appointments in State-run colleges and the arrest of a former Cupboard Minister by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have put the TMC authorities led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a good spot.

The wave of protests by jobseekers and outrage over the restoration of giant quantities of money from associates of TMC leaders have supplied contemporary ammunition to the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Social gathering and the Left Entrance to focus on the federal government, which is attempting onerous to shrug off the taint of corruption.

BJP workers protest in Kolkata against the police action on jobseekers agitating outside the office of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education in Salt lake.

BJP employees protest in Kolkata in opposition to the police motion on jobseekers agitating exterior the workplace of the West Bengal Board of Main Schooling in Salt lake.
| Picture Credit score: DEBASISH BHADURI

Maintaining the strain

Beneath the shade of a burflower ( kadamb) tree, close to the Gandhi statue, Sahidullah, a protester, speaks right into a handheld microphone: “Our jobs have been illegally taken away. Those that bought jobs in return for cash had submitted clean reply sheets with out writing even a phrase on it. By way of this protest we’ve got been capable of make this level clear to the individuals of the State.”

Palash Mondal, one other protester, says they’ve been agitating on the streets for near 600 days. “Our first demonstration lasted 29 days in entrance of the Kolkata Press Membership. The second raged for 187 days at Salt Lake’s Central Park. From November 2021, we’ve got been sitting in protest in entrance of the Gandhi statue,” he says.

Pakhija Khanan, one of many a number of ladies protesters, has introduced her three-year-old youngster alongside within the hope that the federal government will yield to their calls for and provides them jobs.

With no bushes to guard them from the tough solar, protesters agitating close to the statue of Matangini Hazra have huddled beneath tarpaulin sheets in teams of 30 to 50. “That is an apolitical motion. Although representatives of all events come right here, this rip-off has been uncovered by college students and jobseekers,” says Tuhin Dam, who hails from Bardhaman district. Mr. Dam and fellow protesters Dipak Dutta from Nadia and Rafique Hossain from Bardhaman, all of their 30s, insist that this group of jobseekers must be known as ‘2014 Main TET not included’.

Mr. Dutta says they appeared for the Trainer Eligibility Take a look at (TET) in 2014, however when the outcomes have been declared, their names have been within the ‘not included’ class on the advantage checklist. They alleged that many candidates who secured much less marks have been ranked excessive on the checklist and obtained appointment letters. The trio says they earn a dwelling by taking non-public tuitions however hitting the streets to hunt justice has left them with no time to show.

Agitating on the identical spot are candidates who had appeared for exams carried out by the West Bengal College Service Fee (WBSSC) for the recruitment of Group C and Group D staff in secondary and better secondary colleges beneath the West Bengal Board of Secondary Schooling (WBBSE). Candidates from distant districts have been taking turns to journey to the protest websites within the capital to make sure that there isn’t a let-up in strain on the federal government.

Former Industries and Commerce Minister Partha Chatterjee being produced before a court in Kolkata.

Former Industries and Commerce Minister Partha Chatterjee being produced earlier than a court docket in Kolkata.
| Picture Credit score: DEBASISH BHADURI

A serious setback

The protests had gained momentum on Might 18 this yr when the Calcutta Excessive Courtroom ordered a CBI probe into alleged irregularities within the appointment of educating and non-teaching workers by the WBBSE in authorities sponsored and aided colleges on the suggestions of the WBSSC.

Earlier, on Might 13, a panel headed by Justice (retd.) R.Okay. Bag, which was constituted by the Excessive Courtroom, had submitted a report that stated 381 appointments to Group C posts have been made illegally by the WBSSC. The report additionally stated the five-member panel fashioned in 2019 by the Schooling Division, when senior TMC chief Partha Chatterjee held the portfolio as Minister, for monitoring the recruitment of educating and non-teaching workers didn’t have any authorized validity.

The TMC authorities suffered a significant setback within the early hours of July 23 when the ED arrested Mr. Chatterjee. In accordance with the Central probe company, the alleged irregularities within the WBSSC recruitment came about when he was the Schooling Minister between 2014 and 2021.

The arrest got here a day after the ED recovered money and jewelry value ₹21 crore from a flat in south Kolkata that belonged to Arpita Mukherjee, a detailed affiliate of Mr. Chatterjee.

Mr. Chatterjee was not solely a senior Cupboard Minister answerable for 4 key departments, together with Business and Parliamentary Affairs, but in addition the TMC’s secretary basic. 5 days after his arrest, the TMC eliminated Mr. Chatterjee from his ministerial place and all occasion posts. A Cupboard reshuffle adopted and the occasion management, together with Ms. Banerjee, distanced itself from the influential chief, who stays behind bars.

The probe companies have since then taken a number of former officers of the Schooling Division into custody in reference to the rip-off. Shanti Prasad Sinha, former adviser to the WBSSC, and Ashok Kumar Saha, former assistant secretary of WBSSC, have been arrested on August 10, whereas Kalyanmoy Ganguly, former president of the WBBSE, was arrested on September 15. This was adopted by the arrests of Subires Bhattacharyya, former WBSSC chairperson, on September 19, and Manik Bhattacharya, former chairperson of the West Bengal Board of Main Schooling (WBBPE) and TMC’s MLA from Palashipara, on October 11. Whereas Mr. Chatterjee and Mr. Bhattacharya have been arrested by the ED, the remaining officers have been taken into custody by the CBI.

Cash seized by the Enforcement Directorate from the residence of an aide of Partha Chatterjee.

Money seized by the Enforcement Directorate from the residence of an aide of Partha Chatterjee.
| Picture Credit score: PTI

Accused arrange shell corporations: ED

In its 172-page chargesheet filed in opposition to Mr. Chatterjee at the Kolkata periods court docket on September 20, the ED stated he had arrange six shell corporations by way of which cash generated from the rip-off was routed to purchase property within the capital and different districts within the State. The ED instructed the court docket that it had thus far seized money, jewelry and property value ₹103.10 crore linked to the previous Minister and his affiliate, Ms. Mukherjee.

Paperwork, submissions, chargesheets and stories filed by the probe companies have talked about the involvement of TMC functionaries and estimated that thus far 8,163 individuals secured jobs illegally: 3,481 in Group C, 2,823 in Group D, 952 in Courses IX and X, and 907 in Courses XI and XII.

The Excessive Courtroom’s scathing observations within the case and revelations by whistle-blowers have dented the picture of the TMC authorities at a time when the Chief Minister is attempting to venture herself as a nationwide chief who can pose a problem to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Upendra Nath Biswas, former Trinamool MLA and retired Joint Director of the CBI, deposed earlier than the court docket alleging that Chandan Mondal, a resident of Bagda in North 24 Parganas, was providing authorities jobs in return for cash.

In its remand sheet filed after the arrest of Mr. Bhattacharya, the ED stated it had recovered a letter that was additionally addressed to the Chief Minister. “The contents of the letter revealed that ₹7 lakh every was taken from 44 candidates in lieu of jobs as academics,” the remand sheet stated. Nonetheless, Ms. Banerjee has been saying at public occasions that “solely those that attempt to work make errors”. At an occasion organised by the TMC’s mouthpiece, Jaago Bangla, she stated: “No one is a saint.”

Jobseekers demanding appointment as teachers in State-run schools protest outside the office of the West Bengal Public Service Commission in south Kolkata.

Jobseekers demanding appointment as academics in State-run colleges protest exterior the workplace of the West Bengal Public Service Fee in south Kolkata.
| Picture Credit score: DEBASISH BHADURI

Implications of the rip-off

“This isn’t the primary time that the TMC has been battling allegations of corruption. Its 11-year rule has been marked by many scams, however what makes the recruitment rip-off completely different is the restoration of giant quantities of money. The individuals of Bengal have by no means seen such piles of money being recovered from political functionaries,” says Biswanath Chakraborty, Head of the Division of Political Science at Rabindra Bharati College.

Prof. Chakraborty says the political ramifications of the rip-off can solely be in contrast with the 2013 chit fund rip-off through which lakhs of depositors misplaced their cash when the Saradha and Rose Valley group of corporations went bust. “Even in that case, the beneficiaries have been TMC leaders, however we didn’t see a lot money being seized,” he says, including that will probably be robust for the federal government to supply “retrospective justice” to the jobseekers.

Subhomay Moitra, professor on the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, says whereas the chit fund rip-off hit the poor, the recruitment rip-off has shaken the boldness of the educated center class within the ruling institution. “The SSC recruitment beneath the Left Entrance regime was considerably clear and corruption was not as rampant as it’s turning out to be this time,” he says.

The rip-off has not solely sunk the training sector into disaster but in addition shaken the religion of society in academics. Just a few weeks in the past, a matrimonial commercial in search of a groom in a preferred Bengali each day that stated “schoolteachers should not eligible” created an uproar. In Cooch Behar district’s Mathabhanga II block, a significant speaking level was a groom’s refusal to marry a schoolteacher who had misplaced her job after the Excessive Courtroom discovered irregularities in her appointment. The girl staged a protest until the suitor agreed to the wedding.

Candidates who had appeared for the Teacher Eligibility Test in 2014 stage a hunger strike in Salt Lake, Kolkata, on October 20, 2022.

Candidates who had appeared for the Trainer Eligibility Take a look at in 2014 stage a starvation strike in Salt Lake, Kolkata, on October 20, 2022.
| Picture Credit score: PTI

Authorities’s largest concern

The most important concern of the TMC authorities is coping with the chaos that may erupt when the probe companies e book all those that have illegally secured jobs. Because the occasion stormed to energy within the State, 56,000 candidates have been appointed as main academics and recruitments throughout classes might be in extra of 1 lakh.

In a number of instances, the Excessive Courtroom has intervened to strike down unlawful appointments. On Might 20, Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay dismissed former Minister of State for Schooling Paresh Chandra Adhikari’s daughter Ankita Adhikari from her job at a government-aided college and requested her to return the wage she had drawn as a trainer after it was discovered that the advantage checklist was tampered with. The court docket additionally directed that Babita Sarkar, the petitioner within the matter, be appointed as a trainer and the WBSSC pay her the cash returned by Ms. Adhikari. On September 23, the Excessive Courtroom ordered the WBSSC to nominate a candidate named Priyanka Sahu, who stated she had secured excessive marks within the advantage checklist however was not given an appointment letter.

Justice Gangopadhyay, who has been listening to instances associated to the rip-off, has directed the CBI to probe irregularities in no less than 12 instances since September 2021. In an interview to a TV information channel, he stated he was dedicated to hunting down corruption within the recruitment course of and making certain that deserving candidates safe jobs.

Schooling Minister Bratya Basu has stated the federal government doesn’t need anybody to lose their jobs, however the Excessive Courtroom can take the ultimate name on whether or not those that secured appointments illegally can preserve their jobs. Final month, Justice Gangopadhyay had directed the CBI to separate unlawful appointments from the authorized ones.

Job aspirants protesting against alleged irregularities in the West Bengal School Service Commission recruitment of teachers and other staff in State-run schools.

Job aspirants protesting in opposition to alleged irregularities within the West Bengal College Service Fee recruitment of academics and different workers in State-run colleges.
| Picture Credit score: DEBASISH BHADURI

Recent protests erupt

On October 17, lots of of “2014 TET certified not included” candidates laid siege to the workplace of the WBBPE in Salt Lake. Within the early hours of October 21, the police evicted them, prompting the Opposition events and members of civil society to take out rallies in protest. This was the primary time after its 2021 Meeting ballot win that the TMC authorities was going through criticism from outstanding members of civil society. The identical day, the WBBPE issued a notification for recruitment of 11,765 main academics. It stated candidates beneath 40 years might apply for these posts, however no desire was given to the protesting jobseekers, triggering contemporary demonstrations.

On October 24, on the peak of Deepavali and Durga Puja festivities, protesters held placards that learn: “ Aloheen Deepawali (Deepavali with out lights)”. One group of protesters carried out a skit based mostly on Satyajit Ray’s movie Hirak Rajar Deshe (Within the Kingdom of Diamonds). A jobseeker dressed as a king went across the crowd saying those that pay cash will safe jobs even when they’ve submitted clean reply sheets within the recruitment take a look at. After the play, a protester, expressing hope, sang “those that secured jobs by giving bribes might be behind bars in November”.

The subsequent day, the CBI filed a chargesheet in a metropolis court docket in reference to its probe into unlawful appointments of assistant academics in Courses IX and X. It named 12 individuals, together with 4 candidates who had allegedly bought jobs by paying money.

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