As Bihar uncovers a teacher recruitment scandal in which over 20,000 are suspected to have landed jobs using forged degrees, it is becoming increasingly clear that officials at five levels turned a blind eye, connived or accepted bribes to clear the appointments. There were even “package deals” for “group appointments”.
Yet action against these officials has been slow. Only 12 mukhiyas, who headed committees which appointed teachers at the panchayat level, have been removed for allegedly accepting bribes.
No case has been registered against any block education officer, block development officer, district education officer — officialswho made the appointments at the other levels.
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Between 2006 and 2011, Bihar recruited over 1.42 lakh contract teachers for classes I to XII in two phases under Shikshak Niyojan 2006 and Shikshak Niyojan 2008. The only eligibility criteria was a degree or marksheet.
Officials said a verification exercise, ordered after a flood of complaints, suggests that forged degrees may have been submitted by over 20,000 who were appointed teachers. So far, nearly 7,000 degrees have been verified and 779 teachers sacked.
Another 2,734 teachers have been removed after failing twice to clear a competency test. The government suspects that here again, the majority used forged degrees to get jobs.
But even the verification exercise is under a cloud. It is alleged that in many cases, the very men accused of making these appointments — block development officers, block education officers, district education officers, district programme officers — have been asked to verify the authenticity of these degrees.
Appellate authorities received over 40,000 complaints regarding irregularities in the appointment of teachers. This apart, district magistrates and district education officers received over 12,000 complaints of appointments made on the basis of forged degrees.
There were direct allegations against mukhiyas, pramukhs, block education officers and district education officers. In a state with 101 sub-divisions, 534 blocks and 8,406 panchayats, these officials wielded considerable cloud in recruiting teachers.
There were complaints that officials were accepting bribes up to Rs 150,000 to clear appointments.
Teachers were recruited at five levels:
Panchayat-level teachers for classes I to V were hired by a three-member committee headed by the mukhiya.
Block-level teachers for classes I to XII were appointed by a four-member committee under the block pramukh. The block development officer and block education officer had a say.
Corporation-level teachers for classes I to XII were recruited by a three-member committee comprising the mayor, executive officer and block education officer.
At the sub-division level, a four-member Nagar Parishad committee was authorised to appoint teachers for classes I to VIII.
At the Zila Parishad level, the district education officer headed a four-member committee to appoint teachers for classes IX and XII.
Officials said candidates would approach either a mukhiya or BEO and bargain for single or group appointments. A group of four-five could opt for “package deals” ranging from Rs 250,000-300,000.
In Kaimur, a block education officer said all block education officers handed in reports towards 2010-end that around 500 applicants had become teachers with the help of forged degrees. These were mostly physical education certificates and B.Ed degrees.
Aware there was no mechanism in place then to verify the authenticity of degrees, committees at all five levels went on “recruiting candidates by taking bribes of Rs 50,000-150,000” from each.
This has also been highlighted in complaints to district education officers and district appellate authorities.
A retired Buxar block education officer told The Indian Express: “Even I was approached twice and told by the DEO to consider the cases. My conscience did not allow it. But after I retired, the two who had approached me got jobs.” He claimed that “almost 90 per cent” of physical education degrees submitted during the 2008 appointments were forged.
Acknowledging complaints of large-scale irregularities in the appointment of contract teachers between 2006 and 2011, R S Singh, joint director for primary education, said complaints had been received against 22 mukhiyas and 12-14 had been removed.
“There is a cumbersome process of removing mukhiyas under the Panchayati Raj Act. We got provisions of the Act amended in the last Assembly session, giving powers to the district appellate authority to remove a mukhiya or pay a fine up to Rs 25,000 for any act of administrative lapse in appointment of teachers,” he said.
Asked about allegations of bribes being paid to mukhiyas and block education officers, Amarjeet Sinha, who served as HRD secretary earlier, said: “We kept hearing about this. Hence, we moved to a transparent system of appointments through TET (teacher eligibility test). In case of any specific complaint, we are ready to act.”