On march 8,24-year-old Kaushik Das decided that there was no hope left in his life. He was despondent about not being able to chalk out a teaching career for himself,despite having studied for a diploma in 2005-06 at Jamini Nandy Primary Teachers Training Institute (PTTI) in North 24-Parganas district. He hanged himself in his home after struggling against the Calcutta High Court order that decreed certificates issued by 122 PTTIs in Bengal were invalid.
Kaushik is not the first casualty of this ruling. The fate of at least 70,000 PTTI students had been hanging in the balance since 2006 in the state. The crisis hit the students when the Calcutta High Court,in response to a Public Interest Litigation,declared that these certificates were worthless since the PTTIs were functioning without adhering to the guidelines of the National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE).
As the crisis deepened and there was no solution in sight,several students committed suicide,the latest being Kaushik. Hunger strikes and street agitations did not change the status quo. He lost hope after the verdict. Although he took part in a number of rallies and meetings,he felt he couldnt support his family, said Subhankar Biswas,who was a fellow student at Jamini Nandy PTTI.
At the root of the problem was the Left Front governments sanction that allowed private PTTIs to operate without adhering to NCTE norms until the time the court intervened.
Initially,the PTTIs were run by the state government,but from 2002 onwards the sector was opened to private players. But a distinct pattern soon emerged an overwhelming majority of these institutes belonged to CPI(M) supporters and leaders. Officials said that as many as 350 applications were received by the state government for PTTI affiliation once the sector was opened to private players. But only about 75 or so,mostly those with links to the party,were given affiliations. Those who were not went to court and got the process stalled.
But for the thousands of hapless students there seems to be no silver lining. There are three categories of students out of the 70,000 or so affected. Firstly,nearly 30,000 teachers who had passed out of PTTIs in 1995-96 are now working as teachers in primary schools. But their diploma has already been declared invalid.
The second class of students,about 25,000,are those who have completed the course and have earned certificates but have not got any jobs as the recruitment process of the government is on hold.
The third category of students are from the 2005-6 batch,numbering about 16,320,whose examination has been put on hold after the High Court order.
Its been a deadlock situation. There are over 38,000 vacancies in primary schools but the state government is in a fix,as it can not recruit teachers who have passed out of the PTTIs.
While Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee assured the students months ago that some solution would be worked out,it is not yet in sight.
NCTE officials,meanwhile,insist that their job is providing training to teachers and they have no control over a courts verdict. The state government evidently is not keen on a legal course having realised its weak grounds on the issue.