| Rebel teacher Madhumita Khan: Right to make-up
After the moral police, the state police. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's men in uniform on Friday entered Bonhooghly Girls' High School at Baranagar to arbitrate in the dressing-down dispute.
Hours later, however, the chief minister gave a thumbs down to the school management for trying to impose a dress code.
'There is no dress or personal make-up code for teachers in our state, and neither should there be one,' Bhattacharjee asserted.
Under instruction from district police bosses, Bijoy Haldar, inspector-in-charge of Baranagar police station, had reached the school where classes have been disrupted following the management's decision not to allow teachers to report for duty wearing lipstick, kajal or bindis and carrying cell phones.
'The situation has been brought under control,' said Haldar. 'Both the management and the rebel teachers have agreed to concede ground so that the school does not suffer.'
The all-girls' institution in north Calcutta has been on the boil for nearly a week after four teachers ' Madhumita Khan, Sanchita Adhikary, Asima Adhikary and Shampa Saha ' refused to accept the management diktat.
Haldar brokered peace by getting Asima Adhikary to furnish an undertaking, in which she said: 'I shall not wear lipstick, kajal, bindi or danglers'. Haldar's peace formula also allowed her room to 'take her grievances' to the school managing committee meeting, slated for next week.
Manoj Verma, additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, said: 'We entered the institution and resolved the issue as otherwise, the situation could have spun out of control.'
Back at Writers' Buildings, chief minister Bhattacharjee made it clear that he regarded the school management action out of tune with the times.
He left no one in doubt that neither the government nor any of its agencies would ever impose such a code. 'I am told that the Baranagar school has done this for decency's sake ' But it is difficult to define 'decency' in the first place.'
According to the chief minister, the institutions would do well to leave such matters to society at large. 'Years ago, we would readily wear dhoti-kurta' Go and tell today's young men to wear a dhoti and see how they resist.'
Giving voice to the rebel teachers' grievances was Poornima Advani, head of the National Women's Commission. On a day's visit to the city, she said she would take up the issue with the government. 'The teachers were not being obscene' This attitude must be resisted,' she said.
The school management, however, remained firm in its stand that teachers are not allowed into class wearing make-up. It decided to refer the issue to the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and the government. 'We will have to know how they view the issue,' said headmistress Tapati Dutta.