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Teachers block ministers’ homes

Teachers from various block grant schools protest outside the Speaker’s residence and (above) MLA’s residence in Bhubaneswar on Friday. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar/ Cuttack, Nov. 30: Agitating teachers and employees from various block grant schools of the state, who had clashed with the police yesterday outside the legislative Assembly, gheraoed the residences of several MLAs and ministers today.

Around 68 teachers, who had been arrested yesterday following the violent incident that left 12 policemen and 30 agitators injured, were sent to Jharapada special jail after their bail pleas were rejected by a local court. This morning, the block grant school members split into groups and staged protests outside the lawmakers’ residences in a bid to prevent them from attending the ongoing winter session of the Assembly. They also wanted to put pressure on the government to immediately fulfil their longstanding demands. Deputy speaker of the Assembly Sananda Marandi was unable to step out of his residence at Unit-II.

“We want the government to discuss the matter with us formally and fulfil our demands. Otherwise, we will continue our protests and gherao the residences of the legislators for the next few days,” said Prasant Mohapatra, president of the Block Grant Secondary School Teachers and Employees’ Association.

Under this association, nearly 30,000 teaching and non-teaching staff members from 1,982 block grant schools and 327 eligible high schools had staged a protest on November 15 at Mahatma Gandhi Marg, demanding abolition of the existing block grant system and provision of 100 per cent grant-in-aid on par with the fully aided high schools of the state.

They threatened to intensify their agitation if the government failed to act on their demands at the earliest. “We will stage a bigger demonstration on December 10, where over 2 lakh teachers, students and their parents will gather outside the state Assembly,” Mohapatra said.

The block grant system has emerged as a major issue. School teachers, under the aegis of Odisha Secondary School Teachers’ Association (OSSTA), also threatened to launch a state-wide movement and a cease work from December 11 if the state government did not fulfil their demand for abolition of the system.

Secretary of OSSTA Raghunath Sahu said the association would organise a state-wide padyatra and street plays from tomorrow to garner public support on this issue. He said 16 other teacher bodies would join them in their agitation and stage a hunger strike in front of Assembly from December 12.

“We have been demanding abolition of the block grant system and introduction of 100 per cent grant-in-aid. We condemn the attack on teachers by cops yesterday,” Sahu said.

OSSTA officials also termed the government’s recent incentive policy to encourage better performance by high schools as ‘unconstitutional’. “In a bid to improve the results, it will lead to corrupt practices in the form of mass cheating during matriculation exams,” Sahu said.

School and mass education minister Rabi Narayan Nanda said the government would fulfil all demands of the teachers.

“The government will provide them salary according to the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission. If there is any dissatisfaction among them, they should talk to us directly instead of resorting to such agitations,” said the minister.