GANGTOK: Sikkim Education Minister Kunga Nima Lepcha has appealed to the protesting adhoc teachers to call off their protest stating that otherwise they would miss the scrutiny process for the October 3 interview.

Terming it a “golden opportunity”, the minister, along with Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) GP Upadhaya, on Monday said the process of verification of documents of candidates from North and South Sikkim has already begun.

In June this year, the state government had terminated the services of 860 teachers merely 8 months after being recruited by the state education department. In protest, six teachers began an indefinite hunger strike.

Rikzing Norbu Bhutia, one of the teachers on hunger strike, said, “This process (of scrutiny) is to force us to call off our protest as most of the teachers will now have to go for the scrutiny. It also is a way of dividing us, as the government will lure other adhoc teachers who have not been part of the protest.”

Rejecting the minister’s plea, the protesting teachers said “scrutiny was never conducted before the interview; it used to be carried out on the day of the interview”.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Upadhaya clarified that the delay in the interview process is “because we are currently conducting interviews for head masters and assistant education officers. The same is scheduled to be complete by September 30.”

The education secretary added that this is the first time that recruitment is being conducted by the Teachers Recruitment Board.

“Once the headmasters are selected after the interview, there will be 100 more posts for graduate teachers. It will create an opportunity for 2500-plus teachers to be recruited after October 3. The teachers will also get full salaries which in eight years will earn them 26 months of additional salary, as compared to no salaries in the past during the 2-month winter break,” Upadhaya said.

On the important question of whether the 860 teachers would be prioritized during the interview or given extension, the education minister said, “We will give them 101% priority; they already come with some form of experience having served 8 months in this batch (2020 recruited teachers). While there are many others who have previous worked 3-4 years, so during the time of their regularisation at 8 years of service, they will have an advantage.”

Terming the interview a “systematic change in the process”, the minister said it is the first time that “the state is implementing a formula which without a doubt is in favour of adhoc teachers”.

“They should think in the larger perspective and start off with scrutiny and preparations for the interview or else they will miss this golden opportunity,” the minister added.

The education department said they have received more than 5,300 applications and the registration has been carried out both in online and offline mode. The department asserted the interview to be “historic” and said teachers will never have to come for yearly extension or re-interview, terming the recruitment “as good as regular job”.

However, the teachers rejected the claims and statements made by the minister and the education secretary and blamed the government of overshadowing their demands with the 8 years of adhoc service recruitment.

“The change in policy is nothing new; they have given us the same assurance even in the past. It simply proved to be a fake assurance. We have waited since July with that assurance. The government has breached our trust in the past, hence, until the extension is given, we demand the resignation of the ACS and an apology for all our hardships so far,” the protesting teachers said.

“The lives of our colleagues are at risk with this hunger strike and how they are terming us to be politically motivated. Hence, we are ready to risk the golden opportunity; we will continue with our protest,” they said.

Teachers fall ill

On Monday, the health of many of the protesting teachers started deteriorating including that of Bhutia, who fell ill during the press conference. On Tuesday morning, another teacher, who was earlier teaching at Rorathang Senior Secondary School, fell ill. They were immediately provided with medical help and a health check-up was conducted.

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