Patna: In protest against the delay in according permanent employee status, thousands of executive assistants working in different departments of the Bihar government have gone on an indefinite strike across the state.
The executive assistants, working on contractual basis, have been up in arms against the government since early this week as they went on strike in most of the districts. The first strike began in Nalanda, followed by Araria, Katihar, Banka, Purnea, Bhojpur, Supaul, and other districts.
The striking executive assistants have threatened not to end their strike till all their demands are fulfilled.
In Patna, district magistrate Abhisek Singh warned the striking executive assistants to join their duty or face the consequences. Singh has reportedly threatened them that their contract would be terminated if they failed to join duty by March 18. This was opposed by the striking executive assistants, who stated that protest or strike are constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The indefinite strike by all executive assistants of Nalanda, which is also the home district of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, entered the fifth day on Friday, March 19. Their ongoing strike has affected work in 22 government departments in the district.
Around 650 executive assistants in Nalanda have been staging a dharna since Monday, with an eight-point charter of demands demands. The protesting workers organised a religious ritual for “divine blessing” to be showered on the government to consider their demands on Friday.
Amit Raj, a leader of the striking executive assistants, said that they were recruited on the basis of a competitive examination by the government but now the government has decided to hand over their service to Beltron. “This is illegal and against the Constitution. We have been protesting against it and will intensify our protest in the coming days,” he told NewsClick.
Similar to Nalanda, the number of striking executive assistants in each district is between 500 to 600.
Also read: Bihar: Government to Provide Only Contractual Jobs, Youth Left Disappointed
According to government’s own data, nearly 1 million personnel are working in various departments on contracts in Bihar. It is the result of government policy, not to appoint regular or permanent employee, and instead recruit staff on contract. More than four lakh contractual teachers in government-run schools, thousands of health officials and workers on contract, and thousands of others on contractual jobs in rural development departments and other government departments have been demanding equal pay for equal work at par with permanent staffers, as per reports. Bihar has witnessed repeated protests and strikes by contractual officials over the last year.
After the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Nitish Kumar came to power in November last year, it has disappointed thousands of youths who seek government jobs. It has made it clear that it will persist with its policy of providing contractual jobs.
Ironically, at present, more than four lakh permanent government posts in different departments are lying vacant and have been so for years in the state.
During the election campaign for state Assembly polls last year, in its manifesto released in response to the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the ruling BJP, an ally of CM Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), had promised to provide 19 lakh jobs in the next five years. RJD leader Tejashawi Yadav, who was the chief ministerial candidate of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), had promised 10 lakh government jobs to the youth of Bihar if they were elected to power.
However, CM Nitish Kumar had maintained silence on the jobs front during his election campaign, instead attacking the Opposition leader over his promise to provide 10 lakh government jobs.
Notably, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s estimates, for the past 20 months – since February 2019 – the unemployment rate in Bihar has been more than 10%. It is one of the longest cycles of unemployment that the state has ever seen.
Also read: Bihar: Job Aspiring Youths Slam Govt Decision to Restrict Employing Those Participating in Protests