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Strike shadow over Plus Two exams

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 25: More than 8,000 lecturers and employees of 488 block grant colleges across the state today resorted to cease work and threatened not to co-operate in conducting Plus Two exams starting March 1.

“One of colleagues died of cardiac arrest because he could not take the stress of the state government’s indifference to our demands,” said Priya Ranjan Rath, who is leading the agitation.

According to the claims of the teachers, 39-year-old Rabindra Kumar Rout of Bayababa College, a block grant institution, in Mahakalpada of Kendrapada district, suffered a heart attack on Friday and passed away the following day after hearing that their 70-day strike had not yielded results. His close associate, Niranjan Nayak, said Rout was upset after his mother passed away 12 days ago and had been admitted to the hospital. “When he heard that the government had not conceded to our demands of salaries on par with teachers of fully-aided colleges, he had a heart attack and passed away on Saturday,” he said.

Many other lecturers are also complaining of health problems because of the mounting stress, courtesy government’s “neglect” of their demands for 100 per cent grant-in-aid. Higher education minister Badri Narayan Patra announced on Friday that the salary of employees and lecturers of the 488 colleges would be hiked by Rs 2,800.

The bail motion of the 41 arrested lecturers could not be moved today because an advocate of the Bhubaneswar Bar Association passed away and the court was adjourned. However, higher education authorities said they were open to a discussion with the striking college staff.

Though the agitation is likely to affect the upcoming exams, the government is determined to go ahead with it. “There is no question of postponing the exams. We will stick to the schedule and appeal to the striking teachers to join exam duty in the interest of students,” said secretary of higher education Gagan Kumar Dhal.

Authorities of Council of Higher Secondary Examination, which conducts Plus Two exams in the state, had expressed apprehension in conducting exams in the face of the ongoing strike by lecturers. “Ideally, 5,000 teaching and non-teaching staff are required for invigilation and other exam-related duty. Non-co-operation on the part of lecturers will adversely affect the exams,” said a top council official.

Lecturers under the nine-block Criteria College Lectures and Employees Association today said they would cooperate with the government to ensure that the Plus Two exams were conducted smoothly.