FOR MORE than 22,000 junior college teachers in the state, this was the seventh Diwali without celebrations. Instead of lighting lamps, around 35 teachers gathered at Azad Maidan to protest against the non-disbursement of their salaries in the past 16 years despite running from pillar to post. Around 22,500 teachers of 3,190 unaided junior colleges from across the state have been protesting every Diwali at Azad Maidan against the ‘grave injustice’. This year’s Diwali protest marks the 185th such protest by the teachers demanding a pay.
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“Our struggle has been going on for almost 15 years. The ministers promise to address our problem but their promises have not been fulfilled yet,” said Tanaji Naik (42), state secretary of the teachers’ association for higher secondary colleges. Tanaji, along with wife Sharada and two children, has been on hunger strike since August 29.
The salaries will be disbursed only when the colleges receive grants from the government and the teachers said that around 800 colleges were found to be eligible for the grants by the government in 2014. However a formal government resolution declaring the grants is yet to come.
The teachers have, therefore, been forced to take up part-time jobs to make ends meet. “After our teaching hours are over, we take up other contractual jobs. Some go for construction work, some work in agricultural fields earning a meager salary,” said Santosh Wagh, a 35-year-old teacher from Amravati. “Our students have gone ahead and started earning handsome salaries but we haven’t progressed in so many years,” said Deepak Kulkarni (36) from Aurangabad.
School education secretary Nand Kumar said the government had marked the colleges eligible for grants but the approval process was still pending. He said that most of the junior colleges were allowed to open operations in rural areas only after they submitted the affidavits that they would not seek grants. However, owing to political pressure, ministers have given in to the demands but the salary disbursal will depend on the financial health of the government,” said Kumar, adding that a similar promise made to high school teachers in 2009 was fulfilled only in 2016.
According to the teachers, Education Minister Vinod Tawde had assured them of the grants when he was in the opposition but the assurance has not materialised despite coming to power two years ago. Tawde was, however, unavailable for comment.