Print edition : April 08, 2011

AIDWA members protest against the government notification reserving 67 per cent of teaching posts for men, in Rohtak district. - BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Haryana government order that in effect reserves 67 per cent of teaching posts for men is of a piece with its record of gender bias.

THE Haryana government claims it has a slew of schemes and policies aimed at empowering women, but one of its policy decisions relating to the recruitment of teachers has angered women in the State. In 2005, the government issued an order reserving 33 per cent of the teaching posts for women and 67 per cent for men. The decision was widely criticised as grossly unconstitutional, but it was never cancelled. Following protests by the School Teachers' Federation of India and women's organisations against the notification, the government modified it in 2006 by reserving at least 33 per cent of seats for women.

In June 2009, the Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) invited applications to fill 1,317 teachers' vacancies in chemistry, economics, English, fine arts, geography, Hindi, history, mathematics, music, physical education, political science, psychology, Punjabi, Sanskrit and sociology.

The HPSC conducted screening tests on December 19 and 26, 2010. The number of candidates who qualified for interviews was three times the number of vacancies. Against the number of vacant posts in each subject at the time of advertising, a 33:67 division was done, restricting the total quota for women at 33 per cent. For instance, if the total number of vacancies for chemistry was 33 with 21 in the general category, 14 were reserved for men and seven for women in this category. In the reserved categories too, a higher proportion was reserved for men. This was challenged in court, and a corrigendum was issued following this. But the approach remained the same at the time of screening.

In order to ensure that more men were selected, the cut-off marks for women who had appeared for the screening tests for the posts of lecturers (school cadre) were kept a few marks above those for men in the general as well as reserved categories. For the post of English lecturers in the general category, the cut-off mark for men was 50 and for women 62. For posts in Hindi, the cut-off score for men was 71 and for women 76; for the Scheduled Castes, parity was maintained at 71 for both men and women while for the Backward Classes category, the cut-off score for women was 78 and for men 75. Even for the physically handicapped, the cut-off score for women was higher by a few marks.

The difference in the cut-off marks for the reserved categories, ex-servicemen and physically handicapped persons in all the subjects was obvious. Worse still, women candidates who had qualified with higher cut-off marks were not called for interviews.

In response to a query under the Right to Information Act about the total number of female candidates selected to the 627 posts in the general category, the Haryana Staff Selection Commission replied in September 2010 that no female candidate had been selected in the general category for the posts of physical education instructors.

Court verdict

The issue was brought to the notice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court by one Ruchi Manglik and other petitioners. The court took cognisance of the matter and was critical of the manner in which the HPSC conducted the recruitment of lecturers in the school cadre. The two-judge Bench comprising Justices M.M. Kumar and Ritu Bahri directed the department concerned to issue a corrigendum and correct the June 18 advertisement that had indicated reservation for both men and women.

The Bench observed: The advertisement has specified the number of posts for numerous subjects. As per the terms of advertisement, for example in the subject of chemistry, out of the 21 posts meant for general category, 14 posts have been reserved for men and seven for women candidates. It clearly conveys the impression that reservation is not only for female but also for male (candidates).

Referring to the reply given by the government, the Bench observed: It conveys in unmistakable terms that any woman having a higher merit would be entitled to be considered as a general candidate in their respective subjects and would be entitled to appointment if her merit is higher. In other words, women could also exceed the limit of 33 per cent and if they are in merit, they are to be given appointment on any of the 67 per cent posts set apart for general category. There is, thus, no reservation for male candidates, but reservation to the extent of 33 per cent is to be made for the female candidates.

Allowing the petition and referring to Supreme Court verdicts, the Bench observed: When selections and appointments to public offices are to be made along with post reserved for various categories, proper course required to be adopted is to first prepare the merit list of all the candidates without any regard to reservation.

A corrigendum was issued by the Secretary, HPSC, on December 12, 2010, which said:

In partial modification of Advertisement No. 3/2009 & 4/2009 for recruitment of 1,317 and 209 posts of lecturer (school cadre) HES-II (Group-B) respectively in Haryana Education Department published on 18.06.2009 in Indian Express, The Times of India, Dainik Bhasker & Dainik Tribune and subsequent corrigendum issued on 18.07.2009, it is announced for the general information of the candidates that as clarified by the Education Department in compliance of the orders of Hon'ble Punjab & Haryana High Court dated 16.8.2010 passed in CWP No. 10072 of 2010 titled as Ruchi Manglik and others v/s State of Haryana and others that 33 per cent reservation for women of Haryana shall be horizontal as notified vide Govt. Notification No. GSR 24/Const/Art.309/2008 dated 18.08.2008 and the ratio of judgment as laid down by the Hon'ble Apex Court in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India 1992 supp(3) SSC 217 shall also be applicable.

Satpal Siwach, an office-bearer of the School Teachers' Federation of India, said: The idea of different cut-off rates itself is discriminatory. Without reservation, there is a high proportion of women in teaching jobs in schools; it is more than 40 per cent, definitely. By limiting it to 33 per cent, the government has discriminated against women on the basis of gender, which is unconstitutional.

The move to institutionalise 67 per cent or two-thirds reservation for men has been criticised strongly by the Left parties in the State, in particular the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Not only women but other categories such as the S.C., the B.C., and the physically challenged have been excluded from selection in the open category, said Inderjit Singh, State secretary, CPI(M). He said that he had written to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda about this but was yet to hear from him. The CPI(M) has also appealed to the Governor to look into this blatantly unconstitutional order.

Surprisingly, other mainstream parties in the State, including the opposition Indian National Lok Dal, have not reacted to the order. Though there are several Congress Members of Parliament from the State, including Kumari Selja, who are part of the Central government, none has bothered to discuss the issue. The matter was ultimately raised by CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member Brinda Karat on March 1 and she was joined by other members, including a few from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Brinda Karat, who began with the disclaimer that the issue had no political motive, said that reservation was being misused by the Haryana government to deprive women of a level playing field.

This is a new face of reservation. Thirty-three per cent reservation for women in jobs has been converted into 67 per cent reservation for men in Haryana, she said, raising the issue in zero hour. The members demanded a clarification from the Haryana government. The Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Ashwani Kumar, assured the MPs that the matter would be looked into.

A few newspapers also have been writing and commenting on the adverse effects of such biased recruitment policies. The ploy has been to reserve the majority of jobs for men in the garb of reserving 33 per cent of them for women. Instead of keeping 33 per cent as the minimum reservation limit for women, it has been converted into the maximum limit.

Even on the basis of pure merit, if more than 33 per cent of women were to get selected, this clause would restrict their numbers to 33 per cent. This move to keep women away from their legitimate right to equal participation in the sphere of employment is not surprising in a State where gender discrimination is one of the most serious challenges, honour killings are common and adverse child sex ratios prevail.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor