The School Service Commission (SSC) candidates withdrew their relay hunger strike on Thursday evening, a day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met them at Dharmatala.
The protesters took the decision following a meeting held by an expert committee — comprising officials from the Commission and five representatives of the SSC candidates — at Bikash Bhawan on Thursday. The strike, which started on February 28, was called off after the candidates received assurance from the Commission.
“We have been protesting for almost a month, braving heavy rain and storm. Finally, the CM came to meet us yesterday. We respect the fact that she reached out to us. The government has sought time and hence, we have decided to withdraw the strike for the time being. Our next move will depend on the government’s action in the month of June,” said one of the representatives of the SSC candidates.
During the meeting on Wednesday evening, Mamata told the students that she could not promise anything before June as the Model Code of Conduct was in place. She had also asked Education Minister Partha Chatterjee to include SSC candidates’ representatives in the expert committee, which earlier consisted officials from the Commission only.
“After the CM left, nearly 50 police officials had come to the protest site. Till late in the evening, they kept forcing us to lift the strike. We stood like a wall and told them that a call will be taken only after a proper meeting is conducted and a unanimous decision is taken”, said Rupali Sadhukhan, an candidate.
“If the government fails to do anything for us even after the election, then we will be back with our relay hunger strike and a bigger protest. They have sought time and so, we have decided to wait till June,” said another SSC candidate. The next meeting of the expert committee will be held in June.
Mamata visited the agitating candidates after receiving a letter from them. As per the CM’s direction, minister Chatterjee formed a five-member committee, led by the secretary of the School Education Department, Manish Jain, to take into account the demands of the candidates and submit a report to him. He had earlier met the candidates at his office on March 6 and had assured them that those having the requisite qualification would get a call for interview in due course of time.
The agitating SSC candidates were allegedly not recruited as teachers in classes 9 to 12 despite having the required qualifications.