Patna: The strike by nearly 4.5 lakh contractual schoolteachers across Bihar entered the fourth day on Thursday, with no move by the authorities to talk to them. The teachers are adamant not to end the strike until their demands fulfilled. The agitating teachers have been staging sit-in protests and taking out protest marches at the block level to district level.
The contractual teachers of government-run schools across the state began an indefinite strike on Monday (Feb 17) for their eight-point demands including ‘equal pay for equal work’ and reverting to the old pension scheme.
The strike has badly affected teaching in schools as well as reportedly hit the ongoing Class 10th examination by the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB). Yet, there is no move to open a dialogue with them, so far.
Instead, organisations and associations of striking teachers have expressed dismay over the harsh action against the teachers and have urged the government not to act against them as they are protesting peacefully for their rights.
Bihar Education Minister Krishnandan Prasad Verma said the government would not tolerate any “indiscipline” to deprive education to students and would take “appropriate” action against striking teachers. He, however, denied that the strike had affected ongoing Class 10th examination.
In a bid to put pressure on striking teachers, the education department on Wednesday did not issued salaries of the striking teachers for January and February. A top official of the department, Sanjay Singh, in his order asked all district education officers to pay salary to all those teachers who had not joined strike.
The call for strike was given by the Bihar Rajya Shikshak Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, a joint platform of 26 schoolteacher associations.
Samiti leader Markandey Pathak told NewsClick that the government “cannot force us to end strike by taking action against us. All contractual teachers are on strike and they will continue till demands are fulfilled. We are not afraid of actions and threats”.
The education department on Tuesday (February 18) even dismissed two striking teachers from service on the charge of absent from duty as invigilators for the ongoing Class 10th examination.
Manoj Kumar and Mustafa Azad, the two teachers, were dismissed from service and FIRs were lodged against them. Both are contractual teachers at a middle school in Muruddinganj in Malsakami and a primary school in Chakram in Patna district, respectively.
They were dismissed from service by the district education officer Jyoti Kumar. This is the first case of harsh action against striking teachers by the government.
The Samiti said the action against the two striking teachers was wrong. “How can the government dismiss striking teachers without a showcause notice and without hearing their explanation on charges against them? The government should withdraw immediately dismissal letter of two striking teachers,” Pathak told NewsClick.
On Wednesday, the teachers took to the streets against the dismissal of these two teachers in all 23 blocks in Patna.
There are also reports that FIRs have been lodged against dozens of striking teachers at different places in other districts as also show cause notices issued.
Meanwhile, Samiti leaders threatened to intensify agitation if the government did not withdraw the dismissal order of two striking teachers. "Teachers have a democratic right to protest and the government cannot snatch our rights, "Pathak said.
The state education department is adamant and has warned teachers of pay cuts and has even announced “alternate measures”. Bihar State Education Board chairman Anand Kishor said the board has roped in teachers from government-aided schools and other staff at district level as invigilators for the Class 10th examination.
According to officials, the board requires at least 65,000 teachers as invigilators in an examination to be taken by more than 15 lakh students. The state has 36,000 regular permanent schoolteachers.
Bhola Paswan, co-convenor of Samiti, told NewsClick that teachers were not just unhappy but also angry with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for “deliberately ignoring” their demands of a salary at par with permanent teachers working in various state government schools.
“We have been raising our demands – equal pay for equal work – for several years but the government has been using different measures to suppress our voices,” said Premchand, another Samiti leader.