Bengal: Ad Hoc or Para Teachers Demand Higher Pay, Hold Protest
Kolkata: Sagareshwar Das (51) has been struggling to support his family as an ad-hoc, or ‘para’ teacher, in West Bengal. He teaches Bengali at the secondary level of Garia Anukulchandra High School and earns only Rs 12,000 per month, which is inadequate to run a family due to rising prices.
"With our meagre pay, it's very difficult for all the 44,125 para teachers of the different schools to survive. For a para teacher at the primary level, the amount is even lower at Rs 10,000/month. Our grocery bill runs to Rs 10,000, and loan sharks are always after us," Das told Newsclick.
Das holds an MA degree in Bengali and joined as a para teacher in 2005 during the Left Front (LF) government’s regime. Until 2011, the government gave them Rs 8,000, Before demitting office, the LF also assigned permanent jobs up to 60 years and Rs 300,000 as ex gratia upon retirement. However, in the past 12 years, during the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government’s rule, there has been no substantial increase in their salary and the ex-gratia amount has been static for the past 12 years.
"We won't survive this ordeal unless the government pays immediate heed to our demands," said Das. He, along with many para teachers, recently took part in a demonstration against the state government at Salt Lake in Kolkata and submitted a memorandum to the state Education Minister Bratya Basu at Bikash Bhawan.
The para teachers demanded a salary of Rs 30,000 for secondary teachers and Rs 26,000 for the primary teachers and gave a two-month time frame to the government to adhere to it. Unless and until these demands are met, the para teachers will be on the road, they warned.
A four-member delegation submitted the 13-point demand charter to the education minister. Amongst the demands was the call to adhere to the Supreme Court judgement on ‘equal pay for equal work’, to absorb all para teachers within the service who have passed the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) examinations of the state, to cover all para teachers under the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) and pension to the retired para teachers, to provide Child Care Leave (CCL) to all para teachers and increase the amount of gratuity from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 10 lakh to keep parity with inflation.
A rally was also held in front of Tantuj Bhawan at Salt Lake, which was addressed by Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) state secretary Anadi Sahoo, and CITU state president Subhas Mukherjee, among others. The rally was presided over by Madhumita Banerjee, President of the Para Teachers' Organisation in West Bengal.
The speakers said Mamata Banerjee, before becoming Chief Minister, had come to a meeting of para teachers and had assured them of higher wages and equal pay for equal work. However, now she has forgotten everything, they said.
Later speaking to NewsClick, Madhumita Banerjee, said that "the economic condition of the para teachers, and many of them are highly educated, are in dire straits. Their meagre wages do not support their family. The para teachers are also against the New Education Policy of the Central government and its adherence by the West Bengal government, as also the closure of the 8,000 schools in the state. This will hit para teachers the hardest, she said, adding that these teachers do not have any transfer policy.
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