The Tamil Nadu government has started a crackdown on the protesting teachers as the indefinite strike of government employees and teachers entered 7th day. About a thousand teachers received warning notices over the protest, while the strike is affecting normalcy in the state’s education institutions and government offices.
The notice reportedly cited the Madras high court’s interim order to immediately end the strike. But on January 25, the court refused to move contempt proceedings saying the interim order was intended for the benefit of students and that they cannot proceed with contempt of court as the strike has not been stayed or declared illegal.
The strike began on January 22, raising a 9-point demand charter. Their main demands include reversal of the contributory pension scheme and restoration of the old pension system, as well as the disbursal of pay commission arrears.
Also Read: Tamil Nadu Government Employees’ Indefinite Strike Enters Second Day
As the government refuses to meet any of the demands, JACTO-GEO (Joint Action Committee of Teachers’ Organisation–Government Employees’ Organisation), the umbrella organisation leading the protest has intensified the strike. In many pockets, the police are detaining the protestors till evening, every day. So far, out of the 557 protestors arrested, 442 are teachers. Fourteen JACTO GEO office bearers have been suspended from service according to The New Indian Express report.
In several schools, only one or two teachers are present. Government is trying to appoint temporary teachers as strike-breakers. They were offered a sum of Rs. 7,500 which was raised to Rs. 10,000 after getting lukewarm responses.
Opposition parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) have asked the government to meet with the protestors and to find an immediate solution. “I condemn the atrocious activities of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led state government,” said DMK president, MK Stalin in a statement.
Mockery of the Protesters
Meanwhile, Minister for Fisheries and Personnel and Administrative Reforms, D. Jayakumar, issued an 11-page statement as a rebuttal to the demands of the strikers. He claimed that the government accepted the contributory pension scheme due to an acute lack of fund to disburse pension as per the old scheme. He asserted that it is impossible for the state to reverse the scheme now.
The statement also makes a mockery of the employees, as it stated that the state government spends over 70 per cent of all funds on salaries, pensions, administration and interest and only 29 per cent on the welfare of the people. He also said that the government will have to borrow additional funds from outside to meet with the demands of the protestors.
This explanation reflects the AIADMK’s position on state welfare and neoliberal policies which align with that of the central government. In the 2019 Global Investors Meet, which incidentally was conducted while the strike was going on, the state has offered heavy incentives worth crores to the corporate giants.