Education Minister does a volte face on his ‘driver-licence renewal’ remark
GUWAHATI: State education minister, Siddhartha Bhattacharya, did a volte face on a recent controversial remark of his. The remark had sparked state-wide protests by Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET)-qualified teachers on June 18 and the minister hastened to add that TET teachers need not reappear in Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET) examinations.
In a recent live radio interview with All India Radio, Guwahati, Bhattacharya, while responding to a question by a TET-qualified teacher on air, had said that TET teachers will have to renew their qualification or the certificate of the examination similar to drivers’ licences which need to be renewed from time to time.
“We have already initiated the process to extend the validity of their certificates and we sent letters to the central government regarding the matter,” said Bhattacharya while changing his stance on the remark.
Bhattacharya further said that the transfer process of the TET-qualified teachers will once again begin in the state.
The minister faced flak for his comment from the teachers as well as various student bodies in Assam.
‘Driver’ the new ‘chowkidar’ for TET teachers
Prior to the volte face, in a unique form of protest, TET-qualified teachers in the state prefixed the word “driver” in front of their names on social media to condemn the education minister’s remarks where he compared TET teachers’ certificate to a driver’s licence that needed to be renewed from time to time.
Taking the cue from Modi government’s #mainbhichowkidar campaign, the contractual teachers of Assam have taken on the prefix “driver” on their Facebook and Twitter handles.
There are close to 41,000 contractual teachers working in different parts of Assam who have been demanding regularisation of jobs for the past many years.
Talking to G Plus, Diparnav Ghosh, general secretary of TET teachers’ association said that they have started a movement. He said, “All TET-passed teachers who are working in Assam are serving teachers and we felt humiliated when the minister compared our certificates to drivers’ licences as we have been continuously working since passing the examination.”
He added that they have strongly condemned the minister’s remark asking the teachers to re-appear for the examination. Teachers informed that after passing the examination and getting the certificate, if someone does not work, the certificate has a validity of seven years. In such a case, they would have to reappear for TET for a new certificate.
Regarding the minister’s latest remarks, Ghosh said that Bhattacharya is unsure about his statements and is changing his stance often. “He later again said that only those who want to become regular will have to appear for TET.”
“However, in our case, it is unfair for us to take the examination again as we have been serving since receiving our certificates,” said Ghosh.
The teachers said they are not paying heed to the minister’s comments and are demanding the chief minister’s intervention.
One of their major demands includes, “unconditional regularisation with full pay protection.”
In the wake of Bhattacharya’s comments, the contractual teachers informed that they are renewing their demands of regularisation of their jobs.
The teachers have also called for a state-wide agitation. “All district committees of TET teachers will submit a memorandum to the chief minister through the respective deputy commissioners,” said Ghosh.
Close to 500 contractual teachers from Kamrup metro and rural districts gathered near the deputy commissioner’s office in Guwahati on Tuesday, June 18, to protest against the government for not regularising their jobs.
They took out a rally under the banner of “All Assam Primary TET Qualified Teachers Society” (AAPTQTS) and protested outside the DC office on Tuesday and also submitted a memorandum to him.
“We are compelled to protest against the government as it is not paying any heed to our demands. We are seeking chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s intervention to solve our issues,” said Rajiv Ranjan Dhar, vice president of AAPTQTS.
Further, the TET teachers from across the state are planning to intensify their movement if the government fails to take any positive step for their welfare, they informed.
“If we do not receive a favourable response, all teachers from across the state will gather at Dispur in a “Dispur Chalo” agitation programme on June 29 to protest against the government for our long-standing demands,” said a teacher.
Student bodies criticize remark
On the other hand, the remark of the education minister has also been slammed by student bodies in the state as many student organisations have condemned the minister’s comments and have extended their support to contractual teachers.
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) general secretary, Lurinjyotri Gogoi, informed G Plus, “We strongly oppose the minister’s comments on TET teachers. They should be given due respect by the government as teaching is a very noble profession.”
He added that they are also supporting the teachers in their pursuit of regularisation of their services.
“The teachers who are working currently in Assam have earned their position on merit and talent. We have demanded that the authorities should take necessary steps in their regard,” said Gogoi.
Similarly, general secretary of Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Palash Changmai said, “The minister should not have used such derogatory terms for teachers and the government should take strong steps to make them permanent.”