With as many as striking 42 teachers — 15 of them under suspension — passing away during the ongoing strike that started in mid-February, teachers’ associations have demanded that the Bihar government be sympathetic towards them, more so in view of the nationwide lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are not saying that 42 teachers have died of hunger. But several of them, who had been placed under suspension, were certainly under pressure. The sheer number of deaths is alarming. The reasons of deaths range from heart attack to brain haemorrahage,” Bihar Rajya Shikshak Sangharsh Samanuay Samiti (BRSSSS) media in-charge Manoj Kumar told The Indian Express: BRSSSS is the nodal body of 28 primary teachers’ associations.
Kumar said even though the government released the salary of January, it also issued “no work, no pay” notice, which means the striking teachers would go without salary for two months.
The ongoing lockdown has made the teachers more anxious.
“The government has been repressive. They have lodged cases against over 20,000 teachers and also suspended them later. We are passing through the most difficult phase in recent times – owing to the lockdown. There is uncertainty about our existing jobs and there is no alternative employment”. He added their association has received no offer for talks with the government.
Ramesh Yadav, a relative of Sanjay Kumar of Rajendra Collegiate, Chhapra, who died of a heart attack last Thursday, said Kumar had been tense for some days. A relative of a Gopalganj teacher, Rangeela Yadav, who died on March 7, said: “He had been very stressed after learning that he would not get any salary before Holi, He suffered a heart attack”. A contractual teacher is paid between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000.
Ashishek Kumar, a member of Bihar Rajya Madhyamik Sikshak Sangh, said: “We are not directly linking death of 42 teachers to the ongoing strike but families of 4.5 lakh teachers have surely living a life of want. Some teachers, especially those suspended, could not take the pressure. We are not trying to sensationalise our strike but the number deaths do ask for the state government to take a sympathetic view and make an attempt to call off the strike.”
Manoj Kumar, principal of Utkramit High School, Mathar, Khagaria, Manoj Kumar said: “Even during the strike, several teachers had been engaged in distributing gloves and sanitisers. We have been doing our bit amid the pandemic despite being on strike. Our efforts should be appreciated.”
Bihar Rajya Madhyamik Sikshak Sangha general secretary Shatrughan Prasad Singh said they have sent at least 15 letters to the government but haven’t got response to any. “Even though education minister Krishna Nandan Verma had said at various fora that the government was open to talks with teachers, there had been no such formal proposal”, said Singh.
While education minister Verma was not available for his comments, an education department official said: “The government is committed to adhering to its affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court. The government has already said in the recent Assembly session about hiking the salary of teachers”.
A senior BJP leader said teachers’ associations had been obstinate. “They did not cooperate with theClass X examination and evaluation process. They should have called off their strike in lockdown. NDA government had offered to give them salary till 15 February as a pre-condition to resume duty but they are adamant”.
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