Teachers’ Strike In Odisha: BJD Corners Oppn Over Contractual Appointments In BJP, Congress-Rule States

Bhubaneswar: With the BJP and Congress extending support to the ongoing protest by primary and upper primary teachers in Odisha, Rajya Sabha Member from BJD Sasmit Patra on Saturday questioned the appointment of contractual teachers in states ruled by the opposition parties.

Taking to his X handle, he wrote: “Came across this advertisement of Gujarat Government appointing contractual teachers. Other BJP and Congress ruled states are also adopting this. What does Odisha BJP and Congress have to say on this?”

The agitation by 1.30 lakh primary and upper primary school teachers across the state escalated on September 13 when they went on mass leave over non-fulfilment of their demands –  abolition of the contractual appointment system, hike in grade pay and restoration of the old pension scheme, and they are continuing their strike despite a warning from the School and Mass Education (SME) department. The stir has affected over 50,000 schools and more than 40 lakh students along with the mid-day meal programme.

This came amid the Odisha government’s decision to recruit 20,000 junior teachers on the basis of annual agreements, in what is billed to be the biggest hiring drive ever, only months after scrapping the contract recruitment system.

The BJP had earlier mocked the Odisha government for spending “Rs 500 crore on the chopper rides on the chief minister’s top aide” and not on teachers. “The Odisha government has failed to address the grievances of teachers. They claim that 5T model governance is prevalent in Odisha, but we are seeing that it is 5D as already there has been a delay of 5 days to resolve the grievances of teachers,” BJP spokesperson, Anil Biswal told the media.

The BJP leader further said that teaching has come to a halt in thousands of schools across the state as the state government is unwilling to meet the demands of the agitating teachers.

Attacking the government in same vein, veteran Congress leader Narasingha Mishra claimed that the education system has literally collapsed in the state. “It is difficult to figure out how many categories of teachers exist in Odisha,” he said, adding that  announcements made by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are always changed.

Terming the closure of schools due to the agitation as unfortunate, state Congress president Sarat Pattanayak said, “The chief minister does not seem to have any idea about the happenings in education. As per the Supreme Court, education means quality education. This means good and permanent teachers with good pay scale.”

Meanwhile, Odisha Abhibhabak Mahasangh has threatened to join the agitation if the government fails to meet the demands of the teachers. Stating that the demands were genuine and justified, Mahasangh, in a release, said the government’s response has been far from encouraging.

The state government, on the other hand, has asked block education officers (BEOs) to track attendance of teachers, especially those engaged on contractual basis and taking part in the agitation, and share the update with the elementary education directorate of SME department on daily basis. The department had earlier warned the agitating teachers for joining the strike without informing the competent authorities and termed it as gross misconduct.

Stating that the sub-committee formed to look into the issues of teachers will submit its report soon, the department has sought cooperation from the federation of the teachers associations.

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