20,000 Auxiliary Teachers Protest in Lucknow, Demand More Honorarium
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI
Lucknow: Sonmti Devi was one of the 20,000 Shiksha Mitras (auxiliary teachers) who participated in the Shikshamitra Samman Bachao Swabhiman rally at Eco Garden, Lucknow, on Thursday, demanding a raise in monthly honorarium and regularisation of job.
“We had to leave our children at home and step out in this bone-chilling cold to protest,” Sonmti, who belongs to Mihinpurwa area of Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district, told Newsclick.
The rally, organised by the Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shiksha Mitra Sangh, was part of the indefinite statewide protest continuing since December. The protesters carried placards displaying the famous slogan of their 2017 protest “Hum Apna Adhikar Mangte, Nahi Kisise Bhik Maangate!”
Over the years, the union has been demanding an increment in the honorarium paid to Shiksha Mitras and their formal recognition as employees. The workers alleged of being deprived of their minimum salaries and blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath for making false promises over the years.
“Our monthly honorarium is so low that we don’t even get Rs 12,000. At times, the payment is delayed by two to four months. I have four children and my husband is physically disabled. Being the sole breadwinner of the family, how will I make ends meet?” a visibly worried Kusum told Newsclick. Despite teaching for nearly a decade, she received little or no benefits.
In 2015, Modi had assured Shiksha Mitras that the Centre would work in close coordination with the UP government to meet their demands.
“You teach students a way of life. Hence, you should not end your own life. Think about the circumstances your families will have to face if you make such an extreme decision. Let’s wait for the court’s decision in writing,” Modi appealed to Shiksha Mitras, who were agitating after the High Court quashed their appointment as assistant teachers.
As many as 1.73 lakh Shiksha Mitra in UP are paid around Rs 10,000 per month with the last increment in September 2017. They have demanded an honorarium of Rs 40,000.
“While Yogi Adityanath was busy making tall promises of jobs in poll-bound states last month, has he noticed the condition of workers in his own state?” asked Namit, who has two daughters and hasn’t paid his rent for nearly two months.
Sushila, who had come along with 200 other teachers from Prayagraj, said, “The honorarium should be increased to Rs 40,000 until we get permanent status and regularisation of service so that we get benefits like pension and dearness allowance.”
The union has also demanded compensation for the families of thousands of Shiksha Mitras who, Sushila claimed, died during the agitation, and appointment letters for those who have cleared the Teacher Eligibility Test.
In 2017, the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of Shiksha Mitras as full-time teachers by the Akhilesh Yadav government in 2014. Demanding an ordinance that gives them permanent jobs and “same salary for same work”, Shiksha Mitras from across the state had protested on several occasions.
After the apex court’s judgement, the salary of contractual teachers came down to Rs 3,500 from Rs 38,848. However, the Adityanath government increased the salary to Rs 10,000.
Shiv Kumar Shukla, the president of Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shiksha Mitra Sangh, told Newsclick that the government should bring an ordinance to reinstate them as assistant teachers. “They should be given equal pay for equal work. Besides, they should be given an honorarium of Rs 40,000 until they are regularised. Their families should also be given jobs,” he said.
Several Shiksha Mitras have died on duty and due to penury.
Last September, a 40-year-old Shiksha Mitra committed suicide in the Firozabad district after failing to bear his family’s expenses.
In 2021, about 135 teachers, Shiksha Mitras and instructors died of COVID-19 infection and symptoms while on Panchayat election duty.
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