The West Bengal para-teachers’ indefinite hunger strike entered day 25 on Monday, December 9. Their protest demanding a pay structure with regular increments, dearness allowance, medical allowance, and childcare leaves has been ongoing for 29 days. On November 15, four days after the para-teachers started their indefinite protest demonstrations under the banner of Para Teachers’ Aikya Manch, 37 protesters started the hunger strike, angered by the state government’s refusal to address the issue.
Talking to NewsClick, Madhumita Banerjee, one of the leaders of the movement, said, “Our hunger strike has been going on for 25 days now. Thirty seven para-teachers had started it, but some of them had to withdraw because of medical conditions, and a couple of others also had to stop because of personal problems. But 25 teachers are continuing their fast at the protest venue.”
She added that the state’s Education Minister Partha Chatterjee had said a couple of days ago that he will meet the protesting teachers on Tuesday, December 10, and try to arrive at a solution for their demands. However, with less than 24 hours left before Tuesday, the teachers still have not received any information from the government about this meeting. She said, “He told the press that he cares about our issues and wants to talk to us. But how can he have a meeting with us on Tuesday if we are not even told about it?”
Also read: WB Para Teachers’ Hunger Strike Enters Day 14, Education Minister Refuses to Talk
The Aikya Manch called for an explicit boycott of the schools from November 18, and thousands of para-teachers boycotted work until December 6. The boycott call was withdrawn on Saturday, December 7. Banerjee said, “We withdrew the call for two reasons. The education minister had requested us to withdraw the boycott for the sake of the students. We honoured his request, and expect him to honour ours. The other reason is that the annual examinations of the students took place recently, and they will not be promoted to next classes if their papers are not checked. We will under no circumstances jeopardise the future of our students.”
However, she added that they will resume the boycott once the teachers are done checking the papers, if the education minister fails to meet them or fulfill their demands. At present, the para-teachers receive only a consolidated pay and none of the benefits that are provided to regular teachers. They have been claiming for a long time that they should be entitled to the same pay structure as assistant teachers, as they do the same amount of work.
The West Bengal government had on December 3 started issuing show-cause notices to the protesting teachers, PTI reported. In a notice, Shubhanjan Das, the state project director of Paschim Banga Samagra Siksha Mission, said he had been asked by the government to seek an explanation for absence from the teachers who have skipped work between November 11 and 23. "I have been directed to request you to immediately show cause for absence from the period of November 11 to November 23 from school without prior intimation or approval," the notice issued by Das said. He sought a reply in the matter from the striking teachers within 10 days. The official, in his letter, also asked the district education officers to forward to the higher authorities any explanation that was found to be "unsatisfactory".
Also read: TMC Govt Issues Show-Cause Notices to Protesting Para-Teachers