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Affiliation pledge breaks fast

Siliguri, Aug. 18: More than 60 students of primary teachers’ training institutes in north Bengal withdrew their indefinite hunger strike here today after they received an assurance from state higher education minister Sudarshan Roy Chowdhury.

The students had resorted to hunger strike on Thursday evening, demanding immediate intervention of the state government to get their institutes affiliated to the National Council for Teachers’ Education (NCTE).

Over 2,200 students of north Bengal and about 20,000 more in the entire state pursuing the joint basic training (JBT) course in 122 Primary Teachers’ Training Institutes (PTTI) — of which 11 are located in this region — found themselves in troubled waters in March this year. The high court in a March-6 order had debarred all PTTIs from continuing their academic activities on the ground that they were not recognised by the NCTE.

“The decision has put a question mark on our careers. Most of us are from poor economic backgrounds and we need the job (of a primary teacher),” said Dhiman Choudhury, the north Bengal zonal secretary of All Bengal Primary Teachers Trainees’ Association. “We want the government to ensure that all the institutions get NCTE recognition at the earliest.”

Sujit Ghosh, another student of the JBT course, said: “We hold the state education department responsible. Though they granted necessary permission to all the PTTIs, it never struck them that these institutions did not have any recognition.”

Their counterparts in Calcutta, too, had been on a hunger strike since August 13, which they withdrew today, the demonstrators here said.

In a letter to the students, Roy Chowdhury said like the BEd issue, the government is earnest about solving this problem too.

“Association representatives met the higher education minister today who confirmed them in writing that the state government is well aware of the situation and taking steps to address it,” Choudhury said. “After receiving the letter, we discussed with our colleagues in Calcutta and withdrew the strike.”

He, however, said they might renew their agitation if they feel that the government is sluggish in its approach.

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