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TET Qualified Candidates Step up Heat, go on Indefinite Hunger Strike

WBBPE recently submitted a petition in the High Court asking the immediate removal of the protesting teachers from the premises of the WBBPE head office to which the court has refused to give any verdict in favour of the board.

Representational use only.image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Kolkata: Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) qualified candidates of 2014 have stepped up heat on the government of West Bengal and have announced to go on an indefinite hunger strike demanding the immediate empanelment of their roll number for jobs.

Last Monday the would-be teachers went into discussion with the present president of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education (WBBPE). Failing to get any assurance from the WBBPE, the teachers spent the night about 150 metres away from WBBPE head office at Saltlake and decided to go on hunger strike from Tuesday morning.

The would-be-teachers later told journalists they are in a do-or-die stage and hence were going on an indefinite hunger strike at the same venue.

Over the past several months, politics in the state had been on a boil over the irregularities in the recruitment process carried out in state-run schools. Former education minister Partha Chatterjee and half a dozen officials including the former chairperson of WBBPE Manik Bhattacharya are behind bars for their alleged involvement in the scam.

Various groups of job seekers who in the past had appeared in the recruitment process have been protesting at different places demanding jobs in state-run schools. The job seekers have been protesting near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Mayo Road and also near the Matangini Hazra statue in Kolkata’s Esplanade area.

In 2014, lakhs of TET aspirants took the test to be recruited as teachers against vacant posts. The exam was held on August 16, 2015. A year later, on September 14, when the exam results were published, about 1,20,000 examinees passed it. During the next phase, the interview process to verify the information was started and rampant corruption issues involving government and administration machinery were unearthed and cases were launched in different courts of the state.

On October 1 last year, the school education department prepared a merit list of 26,000 candidates. This led to a large number of candidates moving to the High Court alleging that even though they were qualified and had a B.Ed degree, their names were not on the merit list which featured less qualified candidates.

In 2020 Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced from Nabanna (state secretariat) that phase-wise the successful TET candidates will be absorbed into the teaching profession in the state. However, that assurance was negated by the WBBPE president Goutam Pal who said that the candidates who have been successful in the 2014 TET examination and have gone through the examination process and interview have to re-appear for an interview once again with the successful candidates of having twice sat for an interview the successful candidates negated this dictate of WBBPE and decided to go to hunger strike.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee when questioned about this fiasco, held the court responsible for it and told whatever should be asked should be to the court as it is on the court's dictum that everything is happening.

Speaking to reporters Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Md Salim condemned the dictates of the WBBPE and said that it had been heard that some of the candidates who are on hunger strike have already fallen ill.

"They are not willing to go to government hospitals. Our volunteer team is there, even a medical team is posted there. Even our workers of the anti-teacher recruitment scam manch workers are there. We had told earlier that to achieve the demands, the road is the best place. However, he told that why should the youths go on a hunger strike rather they should take the bread away from those who have taken away their right to employment?" He said.

General Secretary of Students' Federation of India Srijan Bhattacharya, who was present at the hunger strike venue said that "It is not a hunger strike by eating sandwiches (in a reference to the 27-day hunger strike of the TMC supremo)."

He added that that there are more that one and a half lakh vacancies in the primary board l, and if the government has good will then all of the protesting would-be-teachers can be absorbed.

Another bone of contention with the WBBPE and the would-be-teachers has been that the upper age limit of 40 must be relaxed in case of appointment now as they were within their age limit when they gave the exam in 2014, but corruption has wasted their time and 8 years down the line many are outside the 40-year threshold.

WBBPE recently submitted a petition in the High Court asking the immediate removal of the protesting teachers from the premises of the WBBPE head office to which the court has refused to give any verdict in favour of the WBBPE till now.

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