Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 26:
On the sixteenth day of their round the clock protest, about 50,000 block grant teachers of Odisha today intensified their protest and threatened to gatecrash into the state assembly tomorrow should their demand go unaddressed by the government.
The protesting teachers braved heavy rains throughout the day today to agitate in the lower PMG area blocking it completely. Most of them were seen losing patience at the indifference of the government towards them and were seen threatening to take law into their hands unmindful of the consequences. Anger was evident in their voices.
While some of them threatened to gatecrash into the assembly, get hold of the Chief Minister himself and seek answers from him, others – especially ladies – threatened self-immolation.
The situation continues to remain volatile and security arrangements have been beefed up to address any challenges that might emerge.
“There is no going back from here. It is either do or die. If we don’t get a solution during the discussion about our plights in the assembly tomorrow and money is allocated to meet our demand, we are going to take to violence and gatecrash into the assembly tomorrow. What the government forgets is the schools are closed and the future of lakhs of students are at stake. The only reason the government doesn’t care is because their children don’t go to our schools,” rued a protesting teacher.
“The government has sufficient money for everything free. It can preside over scams and let mine owners and other corporates loot thousands of crore that are due to the state exchequer. But it cites bad state of the state finances for few hundred crores for thousands of us. If the government doesn’t give in to our demands, we are going to go back to the panchayats and expose this government and ensure BJD never comes back to power again,” threatened another teacher.
“I am lying here away from my kids and family for weeks expecting the government to fulfil our demand. I have worked for more than a decade in extreme poverty. Many of our students are well established while my kids remain deprived. This government is deaf and the Chief Minister is heartless. How can someone who doesn’t have a family understand our pain? I am certainly not going back without any concrete results. The last step for me remains self-immolation,” said a visibly distraught lady teacher.
Politics in the state inevitably hotted up with both opposition parties Congress and BJP reiterating their wholehearted support for the movement.
While BJP Spokesperson Suresh Pujari advised the state government to “take the issue seriously and be compassionate towards the demand of the teachers”, Congress Spokesperson Sulochana Das urged the government to “fulfil the demands in the shortest possible time so that the teachers can go back to schools”.
The teachers have been demanding implementation of grant-in-aid order of 1994 that allows regularization of teachers who have served for more than six years.
About 50,000 teachers of Odisha Block Grant Teachers’ Association and other supporting teacher and worker organisations such as the School Teachers’ Federation of Odisha, the School Workers’ Association and the Odisha Gana Shikshak Mahasangh have also taken to the streets.
Overall, almost 4000 schools, including block grant high schools, ME schools, Madrasas and 568 other schools, in 4000 panchayats of Odisha have been locked down since last August 10. The studies of about six lakh students have been affected.
It may be mentioned here that the state High Court yesterday intervened in the matter as it sent a notice to the agitating teacher organisations citing neglect in teaching of the students and has given them seven days’ time to reply back.