Teachers going on strike before or during students’ examinations may soon face serious consequences.
Peeved at the timing and the frequency of such strikes, the Maharashtra government may invoke provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Essential Services and Maintenance Act (MESMA) against such protests in the future.
At the state cabinet meeting on Wednesday, several ministers sought to bring teaching under the ambit of “essential services”. People going on illegal strikes face a six-month jail term and those instigating them can be sent to jail for a year under MESMA.
Various teachers’ outfits have been timing their protests to press for various demands just before examinations. Terming this as unfair pressure tactic, most ministers in Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s council agreed that the government must penalise such protesters.
Despite this discussion, however, the cabinet gave in to demands from a couple of outfits protesting at present.
A proposal to extend grants to 2,960 higher secondary and junior colleges originally sanctioned under “permanent non-grant basis” was approved. The move will cost the state government an additional Rs 190 crore in 2013-14. The Maharashtra State Secondary and Higher Secondary School Principals’ Association had threatened to close down schools if this demand were not met.
Another proposal to pay arrears of the 5th Pay Commission to junior college teachers was approved too. The Maharashtra State Junior College Teachers Association has launched an agitation in this regard. The Bombay University and College Teachers Union has also threatened a strike if its demands remained unresolved.
Meanwhile, ministers expressed concern over the quality of education imparted in schools and junior colleges. Chavan suggested that an audit could be considered to improve the standards.
Minister of State, Higher Education, D P Sawant reportedly demanded setting up of semi-English classes in vernacular schools. Chavan has asked the school department to examine feasibility.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also raised the issue of bogus enrollments. He suggested that the 2,960 institutions be brought under government control. But this was not approved.