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Odisha block grant teachers up the ante; gherao MLAs

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 20:

More than 40,000 block grant school teachers from 4,000 schools of Odisha today gheraoed the MLAs across party lines in their quarters today demanding implementation of the grant-in-aid order of 1994 to the schools.

Block grant teachers demonstrating in front of an MLA's house in Bhubaneswar (OST Photo)
Block grant teachers demonstrating in front of an MLA’s house in Bhubaneswar
(OST Photo)

The gherao helped strengthen the voice of the teachers’ movement with both the Congress and BJP coming out to support the teachers and promising to raise the issue in the assembly today. An immediate solution, however, is unlikely given the assembly continues to be adjourned.

“We have the teachers’ concern in our agenda for the session. It is not only affecting the education in 4000 schools; the careers of 40000 teachers are also at stake. The government, however, is not letting the house function. We would still try our best to take it up,” said Congress MLA Anshuman Mohanty.

The BJP, which has already been supported the cause with its party MLA Dillip Ray assuring to raise the issue in zero hour of the assembly today, reiterated its commitment for the teachers.

“More than 100 teachers today gheraoed my residence this morning. Their concern is legitimate and I fully support it. The government should accept the demand of the teachers and take a call to protect the interests of the students and the teachers,” said BJP’s Pradeep Purohit.

“The block grant teachers from my constituency today gheraoed my residence and tried to stop me from coming to the assembly. The matter is already being considered by the government, but I would anyway raise it in the assembly,” said BJD MLA Balabhadra Majhi.

The teachers have been agitating since August 10 demanding government aid to the block grant schools, rendering more than 4000 schools non-functional. During this time, they have demonstrated in front of the assembly. Other teachers’ associations have also come out in their support.

“The government aided the schools till 1994. But since 1995 till date, they have not done anything for the remaining schools. We demand implementation of the grant-in-aid order of 1994 to the block grant schools with immediate effect. This is a long pending and legitimate demand. Successive governments have been cheating us since more than two decades and treating us like bonded labourers. They have enough money to spend for unnecessary schemes. Why can’t they fulfil our demands?” asked a visibly agitated teacher.

“We don’t want this, but the government has left us no choice but to protest. We have been coming here and agitating since long without any result. This time, we will continue the demonstration until the government gives in. We will only go back to school after our demands are met. Leaders and teachers of all the teachers’ associations of the state starting from Middle English schools to the Secondary School Teachers Associations are with us,” said another teacher.

It may be noted that the Block Grant Secondary School Teachers’ Association has been demanding regularisation of teachers who have served more than six years. Odisha School Teachers’ Association, and the School Workers’ Association and the Odisha Gana Shikshak Mahasangh have also supported the block grant teachers.

The continued protest has left teaching in more than 4000 government-run schools badly affected. Most of these schools have been completely locked down as all the teachers are in Bhubaneswar protesting.

The impasse, however, is likely to continue as the School and Mass Education department has not been able to accept all the demands. The government continues to maintain its ambiguous stand and cites budgetary limitations as the reason for its inability to accept all the demands. It has also expressed its interest for further dialogues with teacher leaders in an attempt to buy time.

“I call upon the representatives of teachers groups to come to the discussion table so that we can work out the best possible solution in a democratic way. Agitation and protests are not the solution. The Government is trying to take a decision as per the resource available to it,” said School and Mass Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra.