I am very wary of people who are religious by profession. My experience is that they are more eager to receive than give. They look for donations, offerings, and other means of accumulating wealth without doing any creative or productive work. So it did not come as a surprise to me when a friend of mine narrated his experience.
His school was taken over recently from a Trust by a religious cult. One of the first things the cultists did was to curtail the rights and privileges of the staff.
The Trust which was running the school formerly was paying the staff according to recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, though a few allowances were not given due to financial constraints. Had it not been for the financial constraints, the Trust would have paid the salaries in full. The Trust which was not religious by profession was honest in its financial dealings with the staff. But the Cult which is religious by profession turns out to be an epitome of greed. Their primary interest seems to lie not in the quality of education that the school should provide or the welfare of the staff and others people connected with the school. They seem to be more concerned about the profits that the school can accrue to their ever-mounting assets.
The staff have been converted into contract labourers, the contract being for a period of three months. What a ridiculous downscaling! Worse, “the contract renewal is contingent upon your (the staff’s) satisfactory performance as [designation of the staff, blacked out], based over School’s evaluation criteria. The contract can be terminated at the instance of the School, anytime without giving any notice if work performance is not found satisfactory….”
We may choose to ignore the legalese and its grammar(lessness). But the condition of satisfactoriness imposed cannot be ignored. It implies that anybody can be thrown out of job for any reason – e.g., not flattering the boss?
The most hilarious clause is what is numbered 5. It reads: “It is duly agreed by both the parties that there is no employer employee relationship between the parties.” What other relationship is there between and employer and the employee? There’s no explanation given at all.
This is happening in the state of New Delhi whose High Court has always ruled that the teachers should be paid according to the stipulated pay scales. For example, “the teachers of unaided private schools are entitled to same pay and emoluments as those of government schools,” says a report in The Economic Times dated 13 May 2012, quoting a Delhi High Court order rejecting an appeal by a private school. “Minority school ordered to pay notified salaries to staff,” is the headline of a Hindu report on 9 Sep 2012. “The Delhi High Court has ruled that minority institutions here in the Capital are not exempted from paying salaries and allowances as notified by the Directorate of Education of the Delhi Government,” says the report. How will the cultists above then get away with what they have done?
Maybe, they will with the help of their financial clout. But then, what human values do they possess? How will they justify their religiousness to their followers or, at least, the staff working for them? What values do they intend to pass on to the students in their educational institutions?
Is religion merely another commercial enterprise? As a friend of mine says frequently, is religion merely a mask for covering up dishonourable deeds?
In his very first address to teachers on Teacher’s Day, President Pranab Mukherjee said: “Your [Teachers’] sacred duty is to enable your pupils to construct knowledge, to discover their own talents, and to develop their physical and interpersonal skills, cognitive abilities and subject-matter expertise. Education must enrich their minds, broaden their horizons and give them ever lasting hunger for exploring new ideas and vistas of opportunity.”
That’s a noble vision for teachers. But will teachers be able to fulfil that vision if they are deprived of basic job security?
If religious leaders forget such fundamentals, who will remember them?