“Achhe din kahan hai?”, “Vinod Tawde, go back!” these were some of the slogans outside Damodar Hall at Parel on Wednesday morning, where an event was to be attended by State Education Minister Vinod Tawde. The protestors were a group of teachers asking for salary dues and permanent status in their jobs.
Some of the protesting teachers were arrested and later released
Some were arrested after the event organisers asked for police help. Sources said that after getting an inkling that teachers would protest at the event, Tawde cancelled his visit. The event was the start of a three-day seminar organised by the Education department, to be presided over by the state Education Secretary Ashwini Bhide and Education Minister Tawde.
The teachers, part of Shikshak Bharti, a group working for the rights of school and college teachers, staged the protest, demanding the Education department act on their demands. “About 45,000 teachers across the state have been declared surplus because of the student-teacher ratio that the government is implementing.
This means our teachers will soon be jobless. Many of our teachers haven’t been paid for some months after being declared surplus,” said Ashok Belsare, one of the teachers. A new staffing pattern introduced by the Education department has now declared the teachers surplus.
Scared of losing their jobs and their only means of livelihood, a group of 500-odd teaching and non-teaching staff members from schools in Mumbai had also protested outside the office of the deputy director of school education last week. “Hundreds of teachers in Thane region have not received their salaries in seven months.
Now the department is threatening to implement the same pattern in Mumbai schools, which means we won’t receive salaries either,” said one of the protesting teachers. She added that teaching as well as non-teaching staffers in schools are in trouble, since most of them are on probation and haven’t yet been made permanent.
Within a few minutes of their protest on Wednesday, police was called to control the situation. Since the slogans kept getting louder, 10 teachers, including Belsare, were arrested for disrupting a government function and held at the Bhoiwada police station till 4 pm.
“How is the government planning to improve the quality of education by making teachers jobless? The fact that education representatives were not even ready to hear our problems shows how much help we can expect from the new government,” added Belsare.
Uniting for the cause
After the arrest and release of these teachers, representatives of teachers’ groups across the state have come together in solidarity. Many have decided to meet at the Shikshak Bharti office in the city this Saturday, to discuss further course of action.
“We have no choice but to keep fighting for our rights. We are hopeful that the government will hear our problems and come up with effective solutions soon, for the benefit of thousands of teachers,” added another teacher.