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Arts students on warpath

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 6: Performing arts students of two city-based institutes today began an indefinite strike outside the Assembly here to draw the government’s attention to their longstanding demand for creation of art teacher posts in all state-run schools.

“Under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, it is mandatory to fill teaching posts for music, dance, drama and fine arts. Why can’t the state government create such posts in every primary, nodal and high schools like other Centre-run or private English medium schools have?” asked Simantini Mishra, one of the 150-odd disgruntled students from Utkal University of Culture.

Nearly 350 students from Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya joined them in the agitation today. They alleged that more than 15,000 students, including 5,000 youngsters suffering from various disabilities, had graduated from the college in the past 50 years, but a large majority of them had not been able to find jobs in the field of art and culture.

“Only a handful of them are making a living by doing odd jobs in the film industry. The rest are languishing in poverty for the want of jobs in the art sector. We will continue this sit-in till the government takes a definite decision to put an end to our woes,” she said.

Another student, Anil Kumar Mohapatra, said the state, in a reply to his RTI plea, had stated in September that art teacher posts in its schools had been abolished since 1991. “But surprisingly, the finance department in 1998 had published the revised payscale for those non-existent posts. I got a vague reply that the culture and tourism department would try to revive those posts, but we can’t rely on that until some genuine steps are taken,” he said.

The students said the college would celebrate its golden jubilee next year, but the purpose of setting it up had been defeated because of the government’s apathy.