Agitating teachers seeking job protection arrested in Tripura



As many as 1,000 Tripura government teachers were arrested by the police, while six others fell ill on Tuesday, during their agitation going on since Saturday demanding alternative arrangements to keep their jobs intact.

The arrested and ailing teachers are part of the 10,323 Tripura government teachers facing termination of jobs due to the Supreme Court and High Court orders.

"To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the government has promulgated Section 144 to avert and avoid the mass gatherings of people. That's why, despite our request to withdraw their sit-in demonstrations, we were forced to arrest around 1,000 teachers," a police official said.

Leader of the agitating teachers Bimal Saha said that they have organised many agitations during the past one year and finally they launched the indefinite sit-in demonstration since Saturday, but unfortunately no government representative wanted to meet them to discuss the "most burning issue".

"Thousands of people have been gathering at the railway stations, bus stands, airports, markets, shopping malls and many other places, but the government is taking action only against our gatherings on the pretext of COVID-19," said Saha, who is the President of the All Tripura 10,323 Ad-hoc Teachers' Association.

The agitating teachers, who also gheraoed a police station in Agartala, are divided into three organisations and two of the organisations -- 'All Tripura 10,323 Ad-hoc Teachers Association' and 'Amra 10,323' (Us 10,323) have been agitating frequently.

Amra 10,323 organisation convener Dalia Das told the media that so far 50 teachers had "died or committed suicide of psychological trauma and anxiety" and the government should provide jobs to a family member of each of the deceased teachers.

Bimal Saha and other teachers told the media on Tuesday that they would intensify their agitation if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government did not take steps to protect their jobs.

They said that the BJP leaders of Tripura and outside the state before the 2018 Assembly elections promised to protect their jobs in their "Vision Document" and during their electoral campaign.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and Education and Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath had said that the state government in consultation with the central government and keeping in mind the Supreme Court and High Court orders has been trying to take "apt steps for the interest of these teachers".

The 10,323 government teachers with graduate, post-graduate and under-graduate educational qualifications were inducted into Tripura government schools in different phases since 2010 when the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front government was in power.

The recruitment of these teachers subsequently went to litigation and the Tripura High Court in 2014 terminated all the 10,323 teachers, saying that the selection criterion had "discrepancies".

Thereafter, Special Leave Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court by the then Left Front government and a section of teachers, but the apex court upheld the High Court verdict on March 29, 2017.

Following an appeal by the previous Left Front government, the Apex Court extended their services up to June last year. After coming to power in March last year, the BJP-led government had filed a fresh appeal in the Supreme Court in June last year and the court granted them a one-time final extension of their services till March 2020.

An official of the Education Department said that though several hundred of these teachers have been absorbed in other government positions and through separate recruitment processes, including Teachers Eligibility Tests (TET), the majority of them are facing job losses.

Prior to the 2018 Tripura Assembly elections, these teachers had hoped that the BJP would find a permanent solution for the 10,323 government teachers. There are around 12,000 vacant posts of teachers in the government schools in the state.

Currently, 41,000 teachers are providing education to 7.29 lakh students in 4,928 government schools.

According to the Right of the Child to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) guidelines, Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) is mandatory for recruitment of teachers in government schools.

To appear for the TET, candidates ought to have 50 per cent marks in certain subjects and a Bachelor's degree or Diploma in Elementary Education or Diploma in Education.

The HRD Ministry had earlier relaxed the minimum qualification norms for teachers, as notified by the NCTE, for Assam, West Bengal and Tripura.

The teachers recruitment and termination of their jobs by the courts was a top political issue ahead of the February 2018 Tripura assembly polls, in which the Left parties's 25-years governance was ended by the alliance of the BJP-Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, a tribal based party. IANS