Lucknow, Sept 04 (KMS): Over 21,000 madrasa teachers appointed by the Union government in Uttar Pradesh have not been paid their salaries for the past 53 months. These teachers had been appointed under the SPQEM (Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas), which was introduced to modernise the education system in religious schools in 2009.
According to the teachers’ union, these teachers have not been paid their honorarium by the Union government since the financial year 2017-18. The president of the Madrasa Aadhunikaran Shikshak Ekta Samiti, Ashraf Ali alias Sikander, told media that since they haven’t received their honorarium for more than four years now, teachers are moving to jobs like rickshaw driving and vending.
As many as 7,742 madrasas are registered under the scheme in UP. Teachers here teach various subjects other than the madrasa curriculum. In each madrasa, there are two-three teachers assigned to teaching non-religious subjects. The Union as well as the state governments pay an honorarium to these teachers on the basis of their education and qualifications. Teachers are divided into two categories: graduate and postgraduate teachers.
The scheme was introduced during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2009. Earlier, it was run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and later on, from April 1, 2021, it came under the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
When the scheme was in its early phases, honorarium funds came from the Union government. But since the funding pattern was changed in the financial year 2018-19, the Union government pays only 60% of the honorarium amount. The other 40% is to be arranged by state governments.
The objective behind starting the scheme was to encourage traditional institutions like madrasas and maktabs (Islamic seminaries) to introduce science, mathematics, social studies, Hindi, Mathematics and English into their curriculum. However, this process of modernisation is voluntary.
The honorarium for graduate teachers and postgraduate teachers is Rs 6,000 per month and Rs 12,000 per month, respectively. The Uttar Pradesh government is paying Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 extra to teachers, besides its state share, to graduate and postgraduate teachers.
This means that graduate teachers get Rs 8,000 per month instead of Rs 6,000, and postgraduate teachers get Rs 15,000 per month instead of Rs 12,000.
Not receiving this promised amount and the lack of alternative sources of income have pushed some of these teachers into very difficult economic situations.
Sikander, who is teaching Hindi at Masoodiya Darul-Uloom, Bahraich, says, “I travel at least 22-25 km everyday to teach students, but in return haven’t got a single penny for the past few years. Isn’t this a mockery of our hard work?”
Another aggrieved teacher, Ram Prakash Verma of Balrampur, said over the phone that because of the government’s apathy, several teachers have left the job after serving for many years. Others have even passed away while facing financial hardships, he argued. “Despite this, the government is not paying any heed to madrasa teachers.”
Verma, who has been teaching social studies at Darul-Uloom Noor-ul-Islam, said the National Democratic Alliance government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party had cut down on the budget for the scheme and had not released any funds since 2016. After a long struggle of four years, teachers received their salaries for just 22 days in March 2021. “The government made fun of us,” Verma added.
Muslim clerics have also highlighted the government’s unfair behaviour. Extending support to the teachers, Maulana Yasoob Abbas said that the government should immediately release all the teachers’ dues. “The government should not turn blind eyes towards madrasas, as they played a significant role in the freedom struggle of the country,” Yasoob added.
Recently, the aggrieved madrasa teachers went to Lucknow to protest near the gate of the BJP state headquarters. However, the police removed them from there and sent them to the Eco Park. The teachers called off the agitation after an assurance from officials of the madrasa board that their arrears will soon be cleared.
The teachers have now decided to launch a massive agitation across the state if their demands are not met.
When contacted, authorities of the UP Madrasa Education Board admitted that the Union government had not paid honorariums to the madrasa teachers in UP for the past few years. R.P. Singh, registrar of the board, told The Wire, “In the last financial year, Rs 189 crore was received from the Union government for the year 2016-17 and about Rs 90 crore was given by the state as its share till March 2021.”
“With this little amount, the board cleared the outstanding salary allowances etc. of these teachers as much as possible.” State authorities have written to the Union government, he said, laying out that past dues are still pending. Singh added that since the budget provisions have been reduced, the board is unable to pay honorariums to teachers.