The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bill revamp sparks unrest

Darjeeling, March 19: Educational institutions run by Christian missionaries across the hills have decided to observe April 4 as a protest day.

The school authorities are protesting against the government's decision to introduce the West Bengal School Service Commission (Amendment), 2006. They believe the bill is a ploy by the government to directly interfere in the administration of these institutions.

'This is a draconian bill and we will observe a protest day on April 4. We will bring out protest rallies in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong and appeal to the general people to support us,' said Father Peter A Lingdamo, convener, Gorkha Hill Association of Christian Schools.

The government had earlier, vide the School Service Commission (SSC) Act 1997 (Section 15 'a' and 'b'), exempted schools founded and administered by religious and linguistic minorities from complying with the SSC Act for the recruitment of teachers. Instead, these schools were governed by the provisions of a special rule granted by government order dated May 23, 1974.

The new bill, however, has provisions by which all religious and linguistic minority schools, which receive financial assistance from the government, will have to comply with the SSC Act while recruiting.

The bill if made into an Act will directly interfere with the working of 11 religious minority schools which include St George Higher Secondary, Pedong, St Philomena's School, Kalimpong, St Joseph's in Kurseong and St Teresa's Girls' Higher Secondary School in Darjeeling. The teachers of these schools receive their salary directly from the government.

Moreover, it is still not clear whether other religious minority schools, which only receive financial assistance in the form of dearness allowance (DA), will be brought under the purview of the new bill. Most ICSE schools run by the religious minorities like St Joseph's School (North Point) only receive about 40 percent of the DA from the state government and not the entire teacher's salary.

'If the government interferes in the administration of our schools we will not even take DA. We will also support the protest on April 4,' said Fr Kinley Tshering, headmaster, St Joseph's School (North Point).

The hill school association has also decided to approach Subash Ghisingh for his support on the issue. Ghisingh has always demanded that the SSC Act should not be implemented in hill schools and that they be classified as linguistic minority schools.

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