Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Patna: The Bihar government has warned thousands of contractual schoolteachers not to go on their proposed indefinite strike from February 17 and has issued directives that action would be taken against them.
Nearly 4.5 lakh contractual schoolteachers are firm about going on indefinite strike from February 17 in support of their eight-point demands, including ‘equal pay for equal work’ and reverting to the old pension scheme.
However, instead of opening up a dialogue with the agitated teachers, the Bihar government has warned them against the strike and announcing “alternate measures” and pay cuts.
Meanwhile, Bihar Education Minister Krishnandan Prasad Verma has appealed to the teachers asking them not to go on strike in view of Class 10 exam of Bihar School Examination Board from February 17 in which more than 15 lakh students will appear. Verma said the strike by teachers during exams would cause inconvenience to students as well. ”If teachers go on strike, as announced by them, the department will make alternate arrangements in their absence from duty. We will conduct exams”.
The minister also said that the striking teachers would be marked absent and their salary would be deducted on the principle of ‘no work no pay’.
With contractual school teachers – also known as Niyojit Shikshak –all set to join the strike, Amrit Lal Meena, principal secretary of Bihar Panchayati Raj Department, has directed all mukhiyas (village body head), Block Development Officers (BDO), district panchayati raj officers and Deputy Development Commissioners (DDC) to initiate disciplinary action against teachers if they go on strike, hamper Class 10 exams or if they boycott the checking of answer sheets of Class 12th examinations that concluded recently.
Meena has also instructed the officials concerned to take tough action, including dismissal from service, asking them to identify all such teachers who leading various teachers associations or organisations and take action against them.
Worried by the boycott call by the Bihar Rajya Shikshak Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, a joint platform of 26 schoolteacher associations, the state education department has set up a monitoring cell to keep a close watch on the likely strike. ”The monitoring cell will collect information related to ‘indiscipline’ of teachers during exams and will recommend action against them”, Sushil Kumar, an officer in the department, said.
The samiti has made it clear that teachers would also join strike and would not undertake invigilation duty of Class 10th examinations.
The Bihar State Primary Teachers’ Association president and convener of the samiti, Brajnandan Sharma, said, “We are sure that all the teachers will join strike to fight for our rights .We will lock the gates of the schools and there will be no classes. The teachers will also boycott invigilation duty to put pressure on the government to fulfill our long-pending demand for equal pay for equal work.”
Bhola Paswan, co-convenor of Samiti, told NewsClick, said teachers were not just unhappy but also angry with chief minister Nitish Kumar, who had been “deliberately ignoring” their demands of salary at par with permanent teachers working in various state government schools.
“We have been raising our demands – equal pay for equal work – since the past several years, but the government has been using different measures to suppress our voices,” another Samiti leader, Premchand, said.
After the Supreme Court’s decision last year in favour of the state government in May this year, thousands of contractual school teachers in Bihar were upset.
Setting aside the Patna High Court judgement, the Supreme Court had refused to regularise jobs of contractual teachers in Bihar. In protest against the verdict, many contractual schoolteachers had threatened to launch a protest after the summer vacation.
The state government had challenged Patna High Court's order, which had ruled that contractual teachers in government schools were entitled to salary at par with regular permanent ones.
Last month, schoolteachers boycotted Nitish Kumar’s much-hyped human chain to raise awareness on environment conservation, in protests against the government's failure to fulfill their demands. They had also boycotted the official Teachers’ Day last September by protesting across the state in favour of their demands.