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Students lock gate, block exit route for teachers

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 27: Police today detained around 40 students, including two girls, of the Utkal University of Culture after they locked the varsity authorities on the campus.

The students had been protesting outside the varsity for the past 10 days, demanding appointment of art graduates as teachers in government schools.

They had locked the main gate, refusing to allow anybody to enter the campus.

However, today vice-chancellor Amiya Pattanayak along with some officials managed to sneak in through a different gate.

The students, thus, locked both gates to block the exit of the authorities as they had called the police.

“The day-to-day official work has been hit because of the agitation. We waited for 10 days, but today we decided to join work and tried entering through another gate,” said Pattanayak.

He added that the varsity officials had gone to the police station to enquire about their students.

Police confirmed that the students were detained as a “preventive measure”.

“The demands by students are genuine, but the university has no role in this matter. Closing the varsity will not serve any purpose.

“The culture department, too, has no role to play in the matter. It is the school and mass education department that has to take a decision on this,” the vice-chancellor said.

Meanwhile, students of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, who are also on an agitation, have locked the open-air Utkal Mandap, on the same campus, demanding immediate recruitment of art teachers in schools.

Students of as many as seven art institutions under the varsity have boycotted classes for an indefinite period.

They have been criticising the state government for “ignoring” their longstanding demand for creation of the art teacher posts.

The government had in 2011 passed orders for the appointment of 13,299 art instructors in 4,433 upper primary schools to be engaged in various positions such as art educator, health and physical educator and work educator.

However, the agitating students rued that the government has not kept its word and the commitment has remained only on paper.

This time, the students have refused to budge despite assurances by the school and mass education department that has promised to bring out advertisements for the posts by January 15.

However, the agitating students have announced to continue with the strike until the advertisements are out.

“We do not trust the government officials or their assurances.

“We will continue the strike and lock the varsity. If there are no jobs for art graduates in the state, what is the purpose of running such an institution,” said Harihar Behera, president of the all-Odisha art and crafts students’ association.