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Rebel teachers turn tables on Nitish

Patna, Sept. 27: Nitish Kumar could hardly have imagined his Adhikar Yatra would turn out to be a stage for protesting contractual teachers.

Even today in Begusarai, the chief minister — with Bihar’s special status demand on his lips — had to face eggs and slippers thrown by the teachers, who just a couple of years ago formed a major vote bank in support of him. In recent past, the state government has flaunted appointment of 2.5 lakh teachers on contract is a remarkable achievement.

But with time, the teachers have changed, rued Nitish yesterday saying they lacked “discipline” — something the chief minister witnessed in the last couple of days during his rallies where he put up a stern face rejecting their demands. Even as black flags being waved at him with some teachers ran along Nitish’s motorcade in Begusarai today, he said: “Black flags are like kala tikkas which are put in the belief that there would be no untoward event.”

At a time when pressure is being mounted on Nitish to look into the demands of teachers, his party appears unnerved by the turn of events. The JD(U) leaders have even made an appeal to the teachers not to behave in such a manner. “In 2003, when para-teachers were first recruited they were paid just Rs 1,500 a month. It was Nitish Kumar when he came to power he appointed them at a scale of Rs 6,000 for trained teachers and Rs 4,000 for non-trained. Today, their monthly honorarium has been hiked with more facilities,” said JD(U) spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari.

Nitish even hinted that the protests were being “orchestrated by some people sitting in Patna”. Some senior JD(U) leaders have also indicated that their main political rival Lalu Prasad had a hand in the protests. “The protesting contractual teachers belong to a particular caste and we have proof that in Khagaria it was carried out by persons owing alliance to jailed ex-MP Pappu Yadav,” alleged a JD(U) leader.

The situation in Khagaria turned violent today after some students of Kosi College ransacked the district collectorate and set several vehicles on fire. An agency report said the protesters, most of them contractual teachers, set fire to three motorcycles and a police jeep when they were prevented from entering the venue of the chief minister's public meeting. A mob later stormed into the office of district magistrate Dharmendra Singh and ransacked furniture and other equipment at the collectorate, it said. Khagaria superintendent of police Mithu Prasadsaid the police used force to disperse the unruly mob. Additional director-general of police (law and order) S.K. Bhardwaj also rushed to Khagaria in the evening to take stock of the situation. Nitish’s rally in Khagaria was also delayed and finally he addressed the meeting around 5.30pm. Kumar later left for Madhepura district under tight security arrangements, sources said.

However, the opposition appears ecstatic with the teachers on contract raising their voice. “We had warned Nitish Kumar against not appointing teachers on contract and asked him to appoint regular teachers. But he did not listen to us. The anger of the contract teachers is genuine. How can one expect a teacher to look after his family with just Rs 8,000 a month?” asked RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav. He also denied the JD(U)’s charges of “orchestrating” protests. “In the last two years, many promises have been made by Nitish Kumar and his government but they have not materialized. There is seething anger against the Nitish government that have got an outlet during the chief minister’s rallies,” Yadav said.

Protesting teachers had disrupted Nitish’s public meetings at Bettiah, Motihari, Madhubani and other venues. But JD(U) leaders pointed out that there was nothing new in a chief minister facing public anger. “Even Lalu Prasad faced protests when he ruled the state but he also managed to win,” said a JD(U) leader.


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