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Pitched battle near Assembly

- 42 injured in clash between protesting teachers and policemen

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 29: At least 42 were injured in a clash between protesting teachers and policemen outside the Assembly today. Among the injured were 12 policemen.

More than 30,000 teachers and other employees of the 1,982 block grant and 327 eligible high schools this afternoon came together at Mahatma Gandhi Square demanding abolition of the existing block grant system and provision of 100 per cent grant in aid on a par with the fully-aided high schools of the state.

The protesters, under the aegis of Block Grant Secondary School Teachers and Employees’ Association, marched towards the Assembly shouting slogans against the government. When they broke into the security cordon, the police initially used water canons to disperse the crowd. But the mob began pelting stones at the cops and the security personnel retaliated with tear gas and baton charge to disperse them.

Around 50 block grant teachers were arrested by the police late in the afternoon.

Three persons were seriously injured in clash.

Santosh Mohanty, 40, a teacher from Mahanga in Cuttack, was hurt when a tear gas shell fired by the police hit his face. He is now being treated at a private hospital near Acharya Vihar Square. Fire-fighter Mrutyunjay Singh, 42, is recovering at the same hospital. He was injured when a stone hurled by the protesters hit his head. Puspalata Swain, 30, a teacher from Keonjhar, was the third person to be seriously injured.

“The government used police force to assault us,” said Swain, who was beaten up by the police when she broke into the security cordon.

Though around 30 platoons of police were pressed into service, they could not control the huge number of protesters. The cops later resorted to baton-charge on a section of teachers who broke into the prohibited zone near the Assembly. Infuriated by the police action, they started pelting stones at the cops. Later, the police had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the crowd.

Director-general of police Prakash Mishra said they used tear gas and water canon only after the teachers broke the barricade and pelted stones. “Later, things were brought under control and around 12 of our personnel suffered injuries,” said Mishra.

President of the teachers’ association Prasanta Mohapatra has threatened that if the state government failed to act as soon as possible, another demonstration with two lakh people would gather at the same spot on December 10.

The teachers have been on cease work since November 15 leading to the closure of all the 2,309 schools affecting more than five lakh students. These include about one lakh Class X students, who have their board exams in February.

The protesting teachers have already announced that they would boycott the form-filling process for matriculation students, which is scheduled to take place in the second week of December.