The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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HS under pen-down cloud
- Council employees strike work in busiest month

Calcutta, Nov. 14: The higher secondary examinations slated to begin April 1, 2004, look uncertain as preparations ahead of it have been paralysed because of an agitation by non-teaching employees of the council.

More than 350 non-teaching employees of the West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Education launched a pen-down strike this week protesting against the government’s refusal to address some of their “long-standing demands”.

The authorities said today November and December are the most crucial months for preparations to conduct the examinations, which more than four lakh students take every year. The strike at this stage has led to “serious problems”.

The employees, backed by a CPM-controlled union, will continue the pen-down till November 18. They have threatened to prolong their agitation till December if they do not get a “positive response” from the government by next week.

“The bulk of all examination-related work is done by the non-teaching employees. The agitation has already hampered the preparations. We may have to face a lot of difficulty in holding the exams on the declared date (from April 1) if the agitation continues,” said Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, the council president.

The council today got in touch with school education minister Kanti Biswas and urged him to request finance minister Asim Dasgupta to look into the employees’ demands.

They have sought implementation of career advancement schemes, leave benefits on a par with government employees, better promotion facilities and creation of an additional post at the council’s regional offices to assist the four regional heads.

Sources in the council said no pre-examination work could begin because of the impasse. “Normally, by this time, major examination-related operations like paper-setting, preparing candidates’ enrolment sheets and sending blank answer scripts are complete. This year, we have not been able to begin any of these,” said an official in the examination department.

The employees said they were firm in the decision to strike work and will intensify the agitation if the government failed to solve their problems.

“Our demands are very legitimate and the government has failed to look into our problems despite several reminders,” said a leader of the union.

Government sources said it did not have the funds required to fulfil the demands.

The council president said the government would not require more than Rs 6 lakh every year to implement the career advancement and other promotion schemes.

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