Patna: Ashok Kumar Singh, Satyendar Kumar, Indrabhushan Yadav and Pawan Kumar Pratap are four among over three lakh contractual school teachers in Bihar. Locally known as ‘Niyojit Shikshak’, they are facing a hard time during the ongoing lockdown as they have not been paid for the past three months. Teachers who have contracted COVID-19 have no money for hospital treatment, essential medicines or even food.
What has angered the leaders of contractual school teachers' organisations is that despite more than 300 teachers succumbing to the pandemic in the last three weeks in Bihar, the state government has failed to help their families who are struggling for survival.
A day after the education department allocated the amount to pay four months pending salaries to 66,104 school teachers, the Bihar Rajya Shikshak Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti on Friday questioned the government’s move to have not set aside pending salaries of 2.57 lakh contractual teachers appointed under Panchayati Raj, 15,000 teachers working in middle schools and 20,000 other teachers.
“Most of the contractual school teachers in all 38 districts are struggling during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as they have not been paid since February this year. This is a painful situation. We have demanded that the government issues the amount for their pending salaries in view of an unprecedented pandemic and Eid," said Manoj Kumar from the Samiti.
In the absence of their salaries and due to a lack of money, contractual school teachers are facing difficult times as many of them and their family members have contracted COVID-19 and are struggling for proper treatment. "Several infected teachers have died due to a lack of proper treatment and many more will die if the government continues to ignore them,” Kumar said.
According to Samiti's media in-charge Premchand, teachers have been doing their work after they were deployed at most of the quarantine centres at railway stations and at COVID control rooms set up to help patients. These teachers were forced to attend school for different work and other engagements. Many teachers were infected while travelling and at work and lost their lives due to a lack of money for proper treatment.
Leaders of teachers organisations have asked the government to immediately allocate money for their salaries else, they will be "forced to stage symbolic protests" despite the pandemic.
Brajnandan Sharma, the convener of the Samiti, said teachers have been dying daily due to COVID-19 as they are unable to get proper treatment.
Sharma said he receives daily reports of teachers deaths due to COVID-19 but that the government is hardly helping them. Sunil Kumar, a teacher from the town of Barh in Patna district, died on Thursday due to COVID-19. Similarly Anju Kumari and Kujur Prasad respectively died on Friday and Wednesday in Patna.
Manoj said nearly 30 teachers had died from COVID-19 in Patna district alone after mid-April. ”We have a list of teachers who died due to COVID-19 across the state," he said.
“We are struggling for survival during the lockdown as most of us have not been paid for three months. Several teachers have been forced to knock on the doors of moneylenders or borrow money at high interest rates to purchase essential items like rice, flour, pulses, potatoes and medicines," said Ashok Kumar Singh, a teacher.
Indrabhushan Yadav, another teacher, said that the Chief Minister should order the education department to pay them. “How can one survive without money? And the salary is our main source of livelihood,” said the father of four children.
Bihar's Opposition Mahagathbandhan, including Left parties' leaders, have demanded that the state government pay the teachers in view of an unprecedented crisis following a second COVID-19 wave and the subsequent lockdown.
SC/ST Shikshak Sangh Bihar's state president, Amit Kumar, has demanded that the CM save teachers from the infection by ordering that teachers be freed from duty, including regularly attending schools. "Like the others, teachers should not be forced by education department officials to join work outside their homes in such an alarming situation," he said.
Bihar has 1,15,151 active COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, with 15,126 new cases reported. In the last 24 hours more than 100 people lost their lives to COVID-19 with 550 people from the state succumbing to the disease this month.