New Delhi: Buoyed by the all-India strike across the country on January 8, over five lakh teachers of the Uttar Pradesh-government-run primary and upper primary schools are gearing up for a demonstration and one-day ‘leave’ on January 21, against the Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s move to enforce the National Pension System (NPS) and monitoring of teachers through the Prerna App, which entails clicking three selfies a day and uploading these.
The teachers will gather at Eco Park, Lucknow on January 21 for the demonstration and protests will also be held and will also every district, demanding better infrastructure, manpower and pension for their members.
A common leave application, addressed to the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA), has been forwarded by the teachers union to around five lakh teachers across the state.
Speaking to NewsClick, Dinesh Chandra Sharma, president of Uttar Pradesh Prathamik Shikshak Sangh, said: "Over one lakh teachers demonstrated on November 21, 2019, to draw the state government's attention towards problems being faced by teachers and students. But, despite assurances, the problem has not been resolved yet and neither has any official pay heed to our demands. So, we decided again to hit the road on January 21, and this time over five lakh teachers would be assembled in Lucknow."
Listing out multiple problems being faced by teachers and students, Sharma said: "First, there is a huge lack of facilities for students in schools. The absence of pay parity and the enforcement NPS for teachers are making teaching a difficult job. Second, those monitoring the teachers through selfie-based 'Prerna' app should know that classrooms lack fans, furniture, power supply and sanitary workers, but the authorities do not seem to be bothered about these problems.”
Meanwhile, secondary and higher teachers' unions have also extended support to the mass leave plan and have decided to close down all schools and colleges of the stare on January 21 in protest. The unions also called upon teachers to take collective leave to perform at the district level.
Ajay Kumar Yadav, a teacher in a primary school in Barhaj, Deoria, told NewsClick: "On January 21, there will be a mass leave of teachers against NPS and lack of infrastructure. All primary and secondary government-aided schools across the Uttar Pradesh will be closed on that day. The NPS is completely against our interests. We want it to be scrapped and the old pension scheme to be re-introduced. There is no guarantee of benefits under the NPS as the contract has been given to private agencies, and we do not trust any private agency."
The teachers are also opposing the new mobile phone App, Prerna, and the Prerna Web portal, which was launched by Chief Minister Adityanath on September 4 on the occasion of Teachers' Day and is being enforced across government schools in the state.
Commenting on the Prerna App, a primary school teacher, Sandeep Pandey, said: "The app-based attendance system is a clear violation of the right to privacy. Female teachers and students’ photograph can be leaked and misused. Teachers have been directed to take selfies thrice a day, which is not possible in remote areas due to technical snags."
Pandey said, "The teachers are required to click three selfies a day. First, during morning assembly with the school staff. The second selfie, with all the students when the mid-day meal is served, and the third one with the principal when the school is about to get over. All these photos need to be sent in real-time so that officials from the block education officer level to the BSAs can monitor the attendance of teachers and students.
Read Also: Thousands of UP School Teachers Protest Against NPS, Selfie-Based Attendance
Unemployment Doubled In 2019
Ever since Adityanath became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, unemployment has almost doubled in the state during the last year compared with 2018, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) .
The average unemployment in UP grew from 5.91% in 2018 to 9.95% during the last year. According to 2011 census, UP is home to nearly 20 crore people, which is over 16% of India's population.
The unemployment rate of 10% means that nearly 10 in every 100 persons are unemployed.