Gangtok: Teachers’ Day in Sikkim this year was more about solidarity for the protesting ad-hoc teachers than a celebration acknowledging them. Six teachers have now entered their third day of indefinite hunger strike.
A teacher exclaimed, “This is disheartening…we never expected to celebrate our day of recognition in protest while some of us are on an indefinite hunger strike. This may be the first occasion when teachers are on the streets on Teachers’ Day. We are not happy with the government and the department, as because of them we are here.”
Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay’s press statement on Teachers Day, wished the teachers across the state but kept away from mentioning anything concerning the protest of the teachers. Opposition leader and Former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, BJP legislator Dilliram Thapa and many others released statements condemning the state government’s harsh stand on ‘not acknowledging the teachers genuine demands for extension till re-interview’. Some of the political leaders even visited the Dharna site at the District Administration Centre ever since the protest shifted base from Tashiling Secretariat on September 2.
In June, the services of 860 teachers were terminated, merely 8 months after being recruited by the state education department.
The abrupt end cited by the state government was to follow the NCTE norms for recruitment and qualifications. The teachers have been arguing that they were invited by the department for recruitment with due scrutiny process before 860 of them being selected, then why end their services abruptly?
The state education department inclined on the fresh interview, which was earlier promised to take place in August was once again postponed to October 3 onwards vide a notification released by the education dept on September 2.
On September 5, teachers celebrated their day of acknowledgement by burning lamps in memory of former president S. Radhakrishnan, teachers were offered khadas as a mark of respect, cutting cakes gifted to them by various students and organisations. Scores of students, social and political activists and even organisations such as Sikkim Nagrik Samaj along with former ministers and political leaders extended their support to the protesting teachers. Many of whom spoke on the occasion.
But the teachers insisted on keeping politics out of their protest, citing they are not in favour of any party either ruling or the opposition, asserting on fighting only for their extension of services.
One such protesting Adhoc teacher stated, “We are not asking for an extension till October, as we have already agreed for the re-interview. If they cannot conduct the interview currently, until they conduct our interview, they can give us an extension. The main reason here is that the studies of teachers are getting hampered, we do not want that to happen. If the interview cannot happen at the earliest, they can give us an extension for our services. It will be fruitful for the students.”
On keeping politics away from the protest, despite political leaders extending support, another teacher stated, “From our perspective, we have kept our protest to be independent. Of course, there are teachers from different political backgrounds, but here we are as teachers. We are not some political party supporters or some politicians, we are only here to demand justice for our Adhoc teachers.”
The protesting teachers have not got any help from the health department, despite six of them going on a hunger strike. They highlighted how the men have been barred from using a washroom nearby while ambulance service or doctor visiting them is a far fetched dream, they claimed.
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