| Jayati Pradhan: Long-distance woes. Picture by Tapan Kumar De
Ever since her marriage about 13 years ago, Jayati Pradhan has been commuting daily, via Sealdah, to Masalandapur, where she teaches. A nine-hour grind to and fro, every day. She leaves her home at Tollygunge around 6.15 am and catches the Bongaon Local at 7.10 am, which takes about two hours to reach her destination. From there, she, along with some of her colleagues, takes an auto-rickshaw, which takes about an hour-and-a-quarter to finally reach her school, Nirmal Adarsha Vidyapith, 22 km from the railway station.
A roadside bazaar perennially obstructs the way to her school. She repeats this exercise later in the day, every day, to get back home. A daunting task, by any standard. It is even more challenging in the case of Jayati, for she is a cancer patient.
Jayati was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach in June 2001. Thanks to timely detection, she was saved. Her colleagues have been extremely understanding and forced her family to accept Rs 50,000 for treatment. She underwent an operation at CNCH, Vellore, followed by 19 strong rounds of chemotherapy.
Jayati is still under treatment. She still goes to Vellore for check-ups every six months, for her cancer is in the metastatic stage and she is definitely not out of danger.
She has been advised to have small meals at regular intervals and not eat anything but home-cooked food. Besides carrying her meals to work even during summer, she also has to lug around a two-litre bottle of filtered drinking water. “I cannot put up with the strain any longer. I feel totally drained when I am back home,” she says.
Her husband, Badal, who is employed with the Sangeet Research Academy, approached education minister Kanti Biswas on August 2 last year, seeking his intervention so that his wife could be transferred to some school closer home.
The minister expressed his inability to take any action, even on humanitarian grounds, as Jayati had been appointed an assistant teacher before the School Service Commission (SSC) was instituted. The reason he proffered for his inability to transfer her was that a teacher selected by one school may not be accepted by another.
Ironically, Kanti Biswas has himself directed that “school mistresses” (not men teachers) recruited by the SSC be transferred to schools closer to where they live, if they have to commute long distances daily.
Badal stresses that if his wife is compelled to cover 180 km daily any longer, it will only hasten her death. And she will leave behind a young daughter who needs to be looked after. So why could his wife’s case not be considered'
Ashok Maity, secretary, Headmasters Association, feels Jayati Pradhan, who teaches English, could definitely be placed in a Calcutta school, because many of these have vacancies for language teachers. Moreover, he says, in the case of schools that have been closed down, teachers are transferred without taking any examination conducted by the SSC. So why cannot the same rule be applied in the case of a terminally-ill person'
Kshama Bhattacharya, president, All Bengal Teachers’ Association (ABTA), however, says the government cannot help, as the school managing committee is the appointing authority. The only way out is for the Pradhans to find a Calcutta school willing to accommodate ailing Jayati.
The two schools could come to a mutual understanding about her transfer. Bhattacharya gave the assurance that ABTA would be firmly behind the Pradhans.