The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salwar kameez breaks a barrier
- Govt clears air on teachers’ dress code

Calcutta, Aug. 5: A government school teacher at work in a salwar kameez or a pair of jeans can no longer be held guilty of wardrobe malfunction.

The government today issued a circular asking heads of all state-aided schools to allow women teachers to wear salwar kameez, the most popular dress among working Indian women, and men teachers to wear denims.

Even though there was no official dress code for teachers, wearing saris was an unofficial must for women. Jeans were a no no for men.

The circular comes in the wake of reports that several schools, run by people with conservative and out-of-sync sartorial preferences, are preventing teachers from wearing salwar kameez or jeans.

“There is an increasing demand from young teachers that they be allowed to wear salwar kameez to school. The government will not allow a teacher to wear indecent or revealing dresses to the workplace. But we are making it clear to the schools that no teacher should be harassed if she wants to attend work in a decent dress, be it a sari or a salwar kameez,” school education minister Kanti Biswas said this afternoon.

The government’s silence over the unlawful bar on teachers’ dresses had often given the impression that it seconded it. Today’s order is the first that officially asks institutions to be liberal in their sartorial outlook.

Biswas said: “We will start sending the circulars tomorrow. The order will come into effect immediately after.”

The schools will, however, enjoy the authority to take action against a teacher if he or she wears an “indecent dress”.

But young teachers are already celebrating the new lease of liberty. “The school authorities had unnecessarily harassed us for so many years by following a meaningless conventional dress code. We are happy that the government has finally intervened,” said a teacher of a school in Ballygunge. She was once asked not to wear salwar kameez to work.

Headmistress of Beltala Girls’ School Ila Bhattacharya said she had no objection to the circular but, “ideally”, she would like women teachers to attend classes in saris.

Teachers from across the state had written to the School Service Commission on several occasions complaining about the school managing committees’ insistence on saris.

The commission had asked several school heads to consider the demand of teachers who preferred salwar kameez to saris but that hardly yielded a result. The circular is more likely to work.

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