Gangtok: The silence of the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) government was broken on Thursday night when Jacob Khaling, the chief minister’s political secretary, revealed that the government was “rethinking rolling back the 8 years adhoc policy”, claiming a closed-door meeting of the government to have been leaked.

“The government hasn’t issued a notification to roll back the eight years policy but a decision has been made. Such talks were already making rounds in the government as a section of teachers has been protesting for nine days now. We will go back to the old adhoc policy of renewing their contract every year, moving away from the framed policy of regularisation at the end of 8 years’ term,” Khaling said.

According to the new policy, all adhoc teachers would be regularised after completing eight years of service as against the current policy of seeking annual extension.

Placing the blame squarely on the protesting adhoc teachers, Khaling said, “We feel adhoc teachers are more welcoming of the existing yearly extension policy. The main crux of this protest is the new policy wherein they wont be given an extension.”

As to why won’t the government offer an extension, as demanded by the teachers, Khaling claimed, “The interviews begin in October and if we give them an extenstion then they can not appear for the interview because they won’t be new applicants. If we give extension till the result declaration, how will they come for interview as existing teachers. They are not unemployed but teachers with valid appointment order if an extension is given.”

Khaling stressed that to not work for the next 3 months after seeking extension is nothing big but lifelong job security through the new policy is a bigger deal.

He highlighted the existing adhoc policy with no consideration for a system to regularise them. “For 2.5 years this government has worked with the old adhoc system of yearly renewal. But the government wants to give justice to the adhoc teachers, some of whom have worked for 22 years. The new policy would ensure job security and even fresh applicants would be regularised at the end of eight years of service courtesy the interview starting from October 3.”

Terming the protest their right, the CM’s political secretary urged the protesting teachers to come for a dialogue but with the condition that they would call off their protest.

“Let’s opt for the middle path. We will accept your demands but you will also have to accept the government’s proposals. We will ensure that your experience of six months to more than a year for some will be given weightage. The government may not be able to accept the demands 100 per cent, but a compromise can be reached at. Almost 99 percent of their demand has been fulfilled. They can compromise on the 1 per cent,” Khaling said.

The All Sikkim Adhoc Teachers and Temporary Employees Association has also been voicing their concern for the last three days. However, the protesting teachers have accused the association of siding with the government and have refused to heed their pleas of coming to the dialogue table.

On the differences between the two factions of teachers, Khaling said, “If we had to play the divide and rule policy, as claimed by many, we would have already done so. But we have included all in the policy – old adhoc teachers, new adhoc teachers, and even fresh applicants – for delivery of justice with one policy. With the protest all of Sikkim system is being defamed.”

The SKM spokesperson went on to claim that the government was running short of time regarding implementation of the new rules with the interviews due from October 3 and said calling off the protest was the only solution. “If a section feels that rolling back the new policy will hamper them, they must come forth and tell the government,” he added.

Vested interest”

Sharing a video footage of an unidentified individual urging the adhoc teachers to “call a rally from Ranipool to Gangtok with aid from Sikkim Progressive Youth Forum and Sikkim Nagrik Samaj”, Khaling questioned, “Is it merely the adhoc teachers who are protesting? Is it merely for the justice of the adhoc teachers that this protest is happening? Has it not been politicised? Someone is instigating the protest with vested interest.”

Khaling claimed the footage was first shared by one of the protesting terminated teachers, who he claims was quick to delete it later after posting it briefly on social media.

“We have seen a video in which how a former chief minister’s son has aided them (teachers) with necessities. SDF supporters have provided them food. Even if they deny, here is the evidence. If you are protesting, do not get involved in politics; fight for what you feel is right based on your own thoughts not ideas placed by others. The solution is either with them and the government, not others,” he added.

Also read: 2 Indian teachers shortlisted for 2021 Global Teacher Prize

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