Patna: Unlike last year, students and owners and staffs of private coaching institutes and schools are angry over the Bihar government’s latest order to close all educational institutions in view of a surge in COVID-19 cases.They have been protesting against the government’s order and the discontent is spreading across the state.
Last Saturday, the state government issued an order directing all schools, colleges and coaching institutes to remain closed till April 11 following rising cases of COVID-19. All the private schools were planning to start their new academic session including junior classes from April 5 or 6.
Following the order, a group of students along with owners and staff of coaching institutes on Wednesday staged a protest in Biharsharif, the district headquarters of Nalanda, against the arrest of three officials of a private coaching institute. They were arrested for violating the guidelines.
The district education officer Manoj Kumar said the police arrested the owner of a coaching institute and two staff for refusing to close the institute, which was running in violation of guidelines issued by the state government. “We have to act against those found violating the guidelines.We have to ensure enforcement of it,” he said.
According to officials of the district administration in Nalanda, which is the home district of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, authorities received information on Wednesday that several private coaching institutes were open and were ignoring the guidelines in Biharsharif.
Sasaram, the district headquarters of Rohtas, witnessed violent protests on Monday against the government decision to close coaching centres as hundreds of students took to the streets. They attacked police vehicles, pelted stones and vandalised public properties to express their anger.
Besides, dozens of owners of private schools and coaching institutes on Tuesday staged a peaceful protest at Bhagat Singh Chowk in Patna city. They have questioned the government’s decision to close schools, colleges and coaching institutes. “If election campaign and polls can be held, assembly session can function, why can’t schools and coaching institutes reopen?” the protesters asked.
Similar protests were held in Gaya,Chapra, Masaurhi ,Muzaffarpur, Sasaram and other towns in the last 48 hours. Randhir Gandhi, a leader of private coaching institutes, said that hundreds of staff of coaching institutes have no option as it is their only source of livelihood. “We cannot cope with lockdown like situation of last year when coaching institutes were closed for months,” he said.
He added that shutting coaching centres is not a solution and instead, the government should allow the institutes to open with certain terms and conditions.
Bihar Private School and Children's Association president Shamael Ahmad said that they have appealed to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to allow reopening of schools from April 12. “I have written a letter to the Chief Minister in this connection and demanded to reopen schools,” he said.
Earlier, the government’s decision was challenged by a group of private coaching institute owners in Patna on Sunday when they announced that they will not shut their coaching centres. But Patna District Magistrate Chandrasekhar Singh threatened to lodge FIRs against the coaching centres if found open.
The Coaching Association of Bihar on Sunday expressed unhappiness over the state government directive to close all educational institutions including coaching centres. A coaching centre owner said that thousands of centres including hundreds alone in Patna remained badly affected since last year due to lockdown and this year when the situation was turning good, the state government suddenly issued order to close them again.
However, the government is adamant to enforce its guidelines to check and control the spread of rising COVID-19 infections. Meanwhile, Bihar Heath Minister Mangal Pandey has clarified that there is no plan to impose lockdown in the state for now.
As per the official website of the state health department, COVID-19 cases have been rising many fold in the last one week. There were only 74 positive cases reported on March 30 in the state that rose to 1089 on April 6. COVID-19 cases are showing a trend of increasing. If not checked in the next few days, situation may turn worse, a senior health official said.