Rights activists and teachers have expressed shock and dismay over the suspension of a teachers’ union leader by Union Territory education department on Wednesday, calling it a violation of freedom of speech. The education secretary, however, says that there is a code of conduct in every organisation that must be followed.
Arvind Rana, a teacher at Government High School, Sarangpur, and leader of SSA teachers’ welfare association, was suspended by Director of School Education, Samagra Shiksha, on Wednesday, for allegedly criticising government policies on social media.
Second suspension this year
It is the second suspension of a teachers’ leader this year. On January 21 Swarn Singh Kamboj, president of UT Cadre Educational Employees Union, was suspended for allegedly violating the conduct rules. Kamboj was suspended under sub-rule(1) of Rule 4 of the Punjab Civil Services Rules 1970 and he is still under suspension. He was also accused of criticising the policies of the administration.
SSA teachers’ association, in a meeting Thursday, promised their unwavering support for the suspended teacher. Ajay Sharma, general secretary of SSA teachers’ association told Chandigarh Newsline that it was an inhuman gesture by the higher authorities.
“This inhuman action of the department is against the right to freedom of expression. Rana represented about 1,000 SSA teachers. He is the voice of all those teachers. He did not criticise the government or its policies, he criticised what we thought was wrong. Is it a crime to stand against the wrong,” he asked.
He added the information he shared on social media was discussed at SSA meetings. “Being the representatives of All India SSA Association, it is our duty to share information with people and the department. The department should rethink and withdraw the suspension letter issued to Rana,” Sharma said.
Many rights activists also expressed their sadness over the suspension.
In a Facebook post, advocate and rights activist H C Arora wrote: “I am a rights activist and I strongly oppose the draconian order of the suspension of Arvind Rana. The order intends to curb freedom of expression and right to dissent. Chandigarh Administration ought to have discussed the matter with him in order to sort out the issue. After all the same administration had rewarded him in the past and he is the head of an association formed for the welfare of the contract teachers.”
Education Secretary B L Sharma, however, said he had posted adverse criticism against the policies of the department and government on social media. “There is a code of conduct in every organisation that must be followed. They should concentrate on teaching, not on netagiri (leadership). If you have any issue you can consult the superior authority first and if your voices go unheard then you can step ahead. There is an internal mechanism to discuss the issues. Our doors are always open for everyone,” said the secretary, adding there is no show-cause notice in the suspension orders.