The primary school teachers from West Bengal have temporarily withdrawn their indefinite hunger strike after the West Bengal government agreed to the demands made by the protesters. Seventeen teachers had been on the indefinite strike in Salt Lake, Kolkata, right next to the office of Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, and thousands of teachers had joined the movement. The teachers had also been demanding the revocation of the transfer orders that had been issued as punitive measures against the 14 teachers who had been leading the movement.
On the evening of July 26, West Bengal government issued a notification saying that the grade pay of trained primary teachers will be enhanced from Rs. 2,600 in pay band 2 to Rs. 3,600 in pay band 3, and the grade pay of untrained primary teachers will be hiked from Rs. 2,300 to Rs. 2,900 in pay band 2 with effect from August 1. In another order, the state government revoked the transfer orders and reinstated the 14 primary teachers who had been transferred to their home districts.
Talking to NewsClick, a primary school teacher who was a part of the movement said, “We are not completely satisfied with the government’s orders on salary hike, and we think there are several loopholes in the notification. Our salaries have not been increased to the amounts we demanded.” The protesters had been demanding that the grade pay of trained teachers be raised to Rs 4,200 from the existing Rs 2,600.
The teacher added, “But the state government has at least agreed to meet our demands in parts, so we think our agitation has been successful. Also considering the deteriorating health of our colleagues who had been on hunger strike for 14 days, we have decided to call off the protest for now, but our fight does not end here.”
Also Read: Primary Teachers on Indefinite Hunger Strike in West Bengal, Demand Better Pay
More than 2 lakh primary school teachers are working in the government schools across West Bengal. The teachers had time and again raised demands for salary hikes before, but to no avail. Even when the grade of the primary teachers was increased in most of the states across the country, the situation remained the same in West Bengal.
Veteran actors Soumitra Chatterjee and Aparna Sen had also urged the state government to agree to the teachers demands. On July 26, actor-director Aparna Sen visited the protesting teachers, and said that the state government should stop giving donations to clubs, organising different festivals, and instead pay the primary teachers what they deserve.
Talking to NewsClick, another primary school teacher said, “The education minister did not apologise for the sexist remarks he made about the female teachers. He needs to take back the irresponsible statement he made about us.