TNW, Patna, April 22: Since second fortnight of February, around four and half lakhs contractual (Niyojit) teachers are on indefinite strike over ‘equal work, equal wage’ demand in Bihar. Instead of bringing these teachers on the negotiation table, state government has imposed ‘no work no pay’ dictat, perhaps to weaken the movement.
Santosh Kumar Singh, a teacher union leader from Dighwara of Saran District said to TheNewsweb, “apart from the academic works, we (teachers) are involved in activities such as census, surveys, election duty, polio vaccine drive, midday meal etc. Now, when we are demanding our right, government is not listening to us. Contrarily, many teachers have been suspended by the authorities on the pretext of not following their orders. These suspended teachers have been going through immense trauma and some of them even have died. Though the labors are getting Rs.1000 monetary assistance after the lockdown, yet the contractual teachers are not getting any government help at the time of such crisis.”
Thousands of teachers have been suspended because of their refusal to do invigilation and evaluation works for the Matriculation and Intermediate examination. As the strike has stretched for so long, the accounts of overwhelming hardships and plights of contractual teachers have been continuously rising. At the time of writing this report, 54 teachers have reportedly died—many of them due to heart attack and brain hemorrhage.
Amid ongoing lockdown, the double whammy of financial crunch and psychological trauma are taking heavy toll on these contractual teachers and their families. Though government has, on several occasions, hinted that it’s ready to talk, yet the general perception among the contractual teachers is that government is not taking any initiative.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has repeatedly stated his position that his government will do whatever maximum it can do but will not budge under any pressure. Speaking on the same line, HRD Minister KrishnandanPrasad Verma maintained that government will increase the salary and service condition of teachers according to its capacity. He insisted that government is considerate towards contractual teachers while appealing them to return to their work and assist in relief operations.
However, most of the teachers this correspondent spoke to, are of the view that government is not only indifferent but is adopting antipathetic attitude towards them. Jameel Ahmad Widrohi, state principal secretary, Pariwartankari Shikchak Mahasangh, a teachers union, said “The government wants to break our resolve by lingering the issue as much as possible; therefore, it is making lock down an excuse”.
“Our organisation’s teachers and districts representatives have reaffirmed that we will persist with the strike until our demands are met”, Navneet Kumar and Shishir Kumar, office bearers of the above mentioned union told Hindi daily Aaj.
In the midst of unstinting determination of contractual teachers to the demand–‘equal work, equal pay’—and state government’s apparent unwillingness to accept this, a solution appears elusive. The major casualty of prolonging strike is, the education imparted at public school of the state which no doubt is deficient, still carries the hope of thousands of unprivileged children. Undeniably, the conditions of contractual teachers will further deteriorate if the strike continues.
(Shams Khan is associated with ‘Bihar Times’, The views are personal)