Kolkata Teacher's Protest Reaches Day 43, Protestors Attempt to Storm State Assembly Building
By: Sashwata Saha
Demanding equal pay as that of permanent teachers at government schools, an association of part-time teachers or para teachers staged a protest outside the West Bengal Assembly in Kolkata on Wednesday. Thousands of teachers have been protesting in the city over wage issues since December 18.
Yesterday’s demonstrations saw protesting teachers climb the gates of the State Assembly building and plant their banner at the summit. Police tried negotiating peace with the teachers which led to some clashes between the two groups. No major injury or death has been reported on either side but some arrests have been made.
This marks the third major demonstration in Kolkata by teachers. Previously, they had protested in and around the Salt Lake area on January 2 leading to the city police bringing out water cannons and a January 6 march along Central Kolkata’s Moulali area. More than 10,000 para-teachers participated in the demonstration and blocked the road, asking the state government to immediately agree to their demands. Police confirmed 11 arrests to local media. January 8 saw a protest in the Esplanade region and even more arrests.
Previously, Newshound India Foundation had reported that the para-teachers were not given permission by the state government to organise a sit-in demonstration, and they had to move the High Court for permission. The court granted them permission to organise the demonstration opposite of Bikash Bhavan, the West Bengal Educational Secretariat building in Salt Lake, under the condition that not more than 700 teachers will be present at the venue at any given time.
Madhumita Banerjee, leader of Para Teacher Aikya Mancha, had told NHIF that under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the state government provides 40% of the salaries of the para teachers, and the remaining 60% is provided to the state government by the central government. She alleged that the para teachers in West Bengal have been receiving only 40% of what the Union has allotted to the state for their salary. The rest is allegedly utilised by the state government for other expenditures.
Banerjee said, “Instead of a pay scale, all of us -- the 64,000 pra teachers in the state -- receive a consolidated salary. The state government should ensure that we receive the same grade pay as assistant teachers, which will mean that we will also receive regular increments, dearness allowances, medical allowances and child leaves. We get none of that. The government must ensure that we should get all the benefits because, at the end of the day, we do the same amount of work as regular teachers.”
Para teachers are not the only ones protesting. Another sit-in demonstration has been ongoing opposite Bikash Bhavan, organised by Manab Sampad Unnayan Sahayak Karmi Union, an umbrella body of para-teachers, vocational teachers, non-teaching staff, special education teachers, and trainers affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). The members of this organisation are also demanding the introduction of a pay structure same as the para teachers.
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