No end in sight to Odisha block grant teachers’ protest

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 21:

Block grant teachers of Odisha continued their round-the-clock protest in front of the assembly on the fourth consecutive day today without any concrete assurance from the government.

block grant teachers strike

The state-wide agitation has left teaching in more than 4000 government-run schools badly crippled. Most of these schools have been completely locked down as all the teachers are in Bhubaneswar protesting.

More than 40,000 block grant school teachers are on the streets demanding implementation of grant-in-aid order of 1994 that allows regularization of teachers who have served for more than six years.

The School Teachers’ Federation of Odisha, the School Workers’ Association and the Odisha Gana Shikshak Mahasangh have also taken to the streets in support of the agitation by the Odisha Block Grant Teachers’ Association.

“Almost 4000 schools in 4000 panchayats of Odisha have been locked down since last August 10. They are block grant high schools, ME schools, Madrasas and 568 other schools. After we took to the streets, the studies of about six lakh students have been affected. The mid-day meal has also been stopped along with other projects such as science exhibitions,” said Nrusinghanath Lenka, a teacher protesting at the lower PMG area of Bhubaneswar.

“We have spent almost two decades of our life with a meagre pay for the sake of the future of the students. We did everything we could to build these institutions so that the students and in turn the state could prosper. But, the government has completely forgotten us. We demand immediate implementation of grant-in-aid order of 1994 and regularisation of teachers who have served for more than six years,” said another agitating teacher.

Some of the teachers, however, sounded optimistic.

“We heard that the Chief Minister has formed a committee that is considering our demands. We are hopeful of a positive outcome and would be very happy to go back to school as soon as our demands are met. However, we would take the protests to the villages should the government fail to do justice to our demands,” said Jyotirmayee Prusty, another teacher.

Even with the optimism of some and pessimism of most, the ground reality has not changed much. At the end of 11 days of consecutive closure of schools, the state government has not delivered much beyond forming a committee and repeating the rhetoric of financial constraints and bringing out a mutually agreeable solution through discussion.

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