Teachers have protested against instructions issued by Block Development Officers (BDOs) in certain districts to photograph individuals defecating in the open as part of the state’s Open Defecation Free (ODF) campaign. The Aurangabad district administration has decided to declare Pawai panchayat of Deo block ODF by December 31, 2017, and has, therefore, got 61 primary and middle-school teachers enrolled in the campaign since November 18; the Kudni block administration in Muzaffarpur has engaged 144 teachers.
Teachers’ associations, however, have said that while they support the ODF campaign, they find it “difficult” to comply with the instructions because it “insults teachers,” undermines “dignity” and could “endanger safety.”
Bihar Madhyamik Sikshak Sangh (BMSS) general secretary and former MP Shatrughan Prasad Singh wrote to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today demanding withdrawal of the orders which ask them to visit villages in the morning and evening.
In his November 18 order, Kudni BDO Harimohan Kumar said: “Teachers concerned are hereby ordered that they will create awareness about ODF among villagers and guardians in their panchayat. Alongside, they will post photographs (of open defecation). Morning follow-up is scheduled between 6 am and 7 am and evening follow-up between 5 pm and 6 pm.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, a Muzaffarpur teacher said: “We were told to take pictures of open defecation. When we said that it could create a law-and-order problem, especially, if we were to take pictures of women or girls going for open defecation, there was no satisfactory response.”
Kumar was not available for comment but Muzaffarpur District Education Officer Lalan Prasad told The Indian Express: “I will speak to the BDO to seek clarification. My office has talked only about our teachers supporting awareness campaign for ODF and not engage in any other activity”.
In his order, Deo BDO Pankaj Kumar Shaktidhar said: “Morning follow-up would begin from 5 am and evening follow-up from 4 pm everyday till December 27”. Said a Deo teacher: “We have been told to take photographs of men, if not women”.
When contacted, Shaktidhar said: “We have engaged only those teachers who get a house rent allowance from the government. Since they are posted in the same areas where they teach, they can go on morning and evening rounds”. Asked about orders to take photographs of open defecation, he said: “There is no pressure”.