Primary school teachers in West Bengal protested in Kolkata on Wednesday, demanding that Education Minister Partha Chatterjee fulfil his promise of increasing their salaries, as the primary school teachers working in government schools in other states get a much higher salary than them. The protest started on the morning of Wednesday, November 6, and continued through the night until Thursday morning.
The teachers earlier had launched an indefinite hunger strike in the month of July, which lasted for 18 days. Thousands of teachers had protested against the office of the education minister in Salt Lake. They had temporarily withdrawn their indefinite hunger strike after the West Bengal government had agreed to meet the demands made by the protesters. The teachers had demanded that their pay scale be increased from existing Rs 2,600 to Rs 4,200, the same amount as in other states of the country. They had been working for meagre salaries and periodically asking the government to increase their salaries. However, unable to support their families, they decided to come out on the streets.
The 14 teachers, who had been leading the movement for the increase in salary for a long time, had been transferred to schools far away from their residences, as a punitive measure by the state government. The protesters had also demanded that these teachers be transferred back to their original workplaces.
The teachers had withdrawn their strike after the West Bengal government had issued a notification saying that the grade pay of trained primary teachers will be enhanced from Rs. 2,600 in pay band 2 to Rs. 3,600 in pay band 3, and the grade pay of untrained primary teachers will be hiked from Rs. 2,300 to Rs. 2,900 in pay band 2 with effect from August 1. In another order, the state government revoked the transfer orders and reinstated the 14 primary teachers who had been transferred to their home districts.
However, more than three months have passed since then. The government still has not published the notification of increase in salary. Almost 10,000 teachers on Wednesday started protesting in Jadavpur, Kolkata, but the police chased away the protesters, following which the teachers shifted to Baghajatin More. Three delegates went to meet the education minister. Kalatan Dasgupta, West Bengal state joint secretary of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), told NewsClick that the minister, Partha Chatterjee, told the team of delegates that the government had done all it could, and refused to do anything more.
When the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] leader Sujan Chakraborty went to meet the protesters, he was allegedly gheraoed by Trinamool Congress (TMC) goons and the police, and stopped from meeting them. The teachers continued to protest in a park in Jadavpur, and spent the night there. The police detained a large number of protesters, who were taken to two different police stations. The arrested teachers will be presented in court on Thursday, November 7. Dasgupta said that the further course of action will be decided once the detained teachers have been released by the police.