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Strike on, but chinks surface
- Minister’s meeting a non-starter

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, Aug. 8: At 4 pm today the HRD minister’s office in the secretariat wore a deserted look although the minister himself had called yesterday a meeting to resolve the 28-day-old strike by non-teaching employees of state universities.

The minister, Bandhu Tirkey, himself was reported to be nearly 200km away at Sainik School, Tilaiya, attending a function.

Nor was there any sign of any representative of the employees. When contacted, they said they had received no formal “invitation” after all, except through the media.

With the meeting a non-starter, the strike continued to meander though there were signs of a rift among the striking employees. Four employees reported back for work at Co-operative College, Jamshedpur, while teachers at Workers’ College and Graduate School College for Women opened classrooms and waited in vain for students, who, however, remained elusive. A few students who did turn up were prevented from getting in by the striking employees.

A leader of the striking employees, Bishambhar Yadav, camping at Ranchi, said they hoped to meet the minister “late tonight or early tomorrow morning”. He also hoped for a “settlement soon” even as a section of striking employees began demanding an assurance that they would not be victimised for joining the strike.

Confusion continued to persist though over the minister’s assurance that the principle of “no-work-no-pay” would be enforced from August 6 and not from July 10, when the strike started. Higher Education director B.B. Singh, however, insisted today that the principle would have to be applied for the entire strike period according to existing rules. If salary is paid for the strike period, rules lay down that the period be adjusted against leave.

HRD secretary J.B. Tubid offered a different explanation. The minister, he said, had appealed for return to work by August 5. That is why, he claimed, the principle would become applicable from August 5. The state government deemed the demands as “genuine”, he said, and negotiation continued throughout this period. Therefore, claimed the secretary, employees can be paid their salary for July. He has also written to all the vice chancellors endorsing what the minister had pledged, that salary would be denied to those employees who fail to resume duty on or after August 6.

Meanwhile, there is no option but to curtail the Puja vacation, said RU vice chancellor A.U. Khan. While CBSE requires classes to be held for a minimum of 240 days in Intermediate colleges following the CBSE syllabi, even RU colleges are expected to hold classes on at least 180 days in a year. With almost a month lost, the VC planned a curtailment of Puja and winter vacations and promised “extra classes” to make up for the loss.

Khan also appealed to the students to return to the classrooms. “In several colleges, teachers have started opening classrooms. And the instruction is that even if two students turn up, they should engage the class. But most of the students seem to think that there will be no class till the strike ends,” he lamented.

Two students did turn up at the Economics department of Workers College and classes were held, said principal S.S. Razi. At Graduate College for Women, B.Ed classes were held, claimed principal Snehalata Sinha.

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