Patna: Thousands of schoolteachers and jeevika didis (livelihood sisters) will boycott the much-hyped human chain proposed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on January 19, in a bid to raise awareness on environment conservation under the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali mission. The teachers and jeevika didis are angry with the government for its failure to fulfill their long-pending demands.
This decision by teachers and jeevika didis, two days ahead of the Chief Minister’s human chain programme, has created panic in the state, as it is been seen as part of Nitish Kumar’s political agenda ahead of the Assembly elections due later this year.
Worried by the boycott announcement made by the Bihar Rajya Shikshak Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti and Bihar Pradesh Jeevika Cadre Sangh, the special branch of Bihar Police, in a letter, has alerted all district magistrates and superintendents of police to keep a watch on the activities of schoolteachers and jeevika didis, as the administration has been working overtime to ensure the success of the Chief Minister’s proposed human chain.
Nitish Kumar has repeatedly claimed that more than four crore people will participate on Sunday, but his claim has raised many eyebrows as Bihar’s total population is nearly 11 crore, including the elderly, children and women. Kumar also said that the 16,351-kilometre-long human chain would include a 5,052-km-long chain on main roads and 1,299 km in the sub-lanes.
“We have decided that all teachers, including 4.25 lakh contractual and 70,000 permanent ones, will boycott the human chain to protest against the failure of the state government led by Nitish Kumar to fulfill our demand for equal pay for equal work, Dr Bhola Paswan, co-convenor of Bihar Rajya Sikhshak Sangarsh Samanvay Samiti, a joint platform of 26 school teacher associations, told NewsClick here on Friday.
The samiti comprises four association of permanent teachers and 22 associations of contractual teachers.
Paswan said teachers were not only unhappy but angry with Nitish Kumar, who had been “deliberately ignoring” their demands of salary at par with permanent teachers working in various government schools in the state.
Manoj Kumar, another leader of Samiti, claimed the CM would “realise his mistake on January 19 as the human chain will be a big flop” without teachers, especially contractual teachers.
”In the last two human chains -- in 2017 in support of prohibition and in 2018 against child marriage -- teachers played a key role in mobilising students and their parents to join, making these a huge success. But this time teachers will boycott human chain”, he said.
Manoj Kumar said some teachers may join the human chain “under pressure or fear of action” by the government, but most of them would certainly boycott it. ”There are no ifs and buts for us, as this is an election year in Bihar and the CM should fulfill our demands”, he added.
Manoj Kumar, who is media in charge of the samiti, said teachers were not against the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali mission because it is for the conservation and protection of environment. ”All teachers from primary school to high school level will plant a sapling of tree near their houses, but keep away from the government’s human chain,” he said.
Similarly, Bihar Pradesh Jeevika Cadre Sangh’s president Pardip Kumar Singh said lakhs of jeevika didis and others associated with the programme would the boycott human chain. ”We have decided not to join it in protest against the government's failure to fulfill our 10-point demand charter and negligence of lakhs of jeevika didis, mostly from poor families”.
He said crores of rupees from the public exchequer were being spent on preparations for the human chain, but jeevika didis are struggling for decent livelihood as they have been forced to work on monthly remuneration of Rs 1,000 to 2,000 only.
The Jeevika programme was launched by the state government with the assistance of the World Bank in 2006. Jeevika promotes rural livelihoods and enhances social and economic empowerment of the poor, particularly women.
According to official figures, there are more than eight lakh self-help groups in the state in which lakhs of jeevika didis are working at the grass root level in thousands of villages. They play an important part in mobilising women from their respective villages for any government programme or function.
“Without jeevika didis’ participation, the human chain will prove a big failure because the government is mainly dependent on them for mobilisation, ”a government officer associated with jeevika programme said on condition of anonymity.
Last month, Nitish Kumar, who is also Janata Dal-United president, began his 12th yatra in the name of “Jal Jeevan Haryali Yatra”. He has visited most of districts and reviewed different schemes undertaken by the government under Jal Jeevan Hariyali Abhiyan, his much hyped Saat Nischay (seven resolves) and total liquor prohibition initiated by the government.
This is not all. The Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) have announced they would not to join human chain. RJD state president Jagdanand Singh said the human chain, in the name of environment, was a show piece but its real motive was political in nature. “RJD will not join it”, he added.
CPI (ML) leader Dhirendra Jha urged people not to join the human chain as it was a ploy to divert attention from basic issues, including unemployment, price rise, crime and corruption in the state.
"Nitish Kumar’s latest Yatra was in the name of environment but it is purely a political Yatra. It is an open secret that this Yatra is loot of public money and misuse of official machinery for his political agenda,” Jha said.
A green activist, Ranjeev, said "Nitish Kumar has mastered the art of using public money to travel across the state in the name of reviewing different development schemes to fulfill his political agenda since he came to power in 2005.
The state government has already announced that it would spend ₹24,500 crore on Nitish Kumar’s ambitious Jal Jeevan Haryali over the next three years.