Teaching a lesson to the Badal government (Punjab Newsletter)
Chandigarh, Dec 9 (IANS) Self-immolation, jumping from 90-foot-high water tanks and getting involved in slapgate may not be the lessons that teachers in Punjab are supposed to give to school students. But protesting educators have certainly given a few lessons to the Parkash Singh Badal-led Akali Dal government.
The latest incident - woman teacher Barinder Pal Kaur, who with others was demanding permanent jobs, got mercilessly assaulted by Akali Dal village headman Balwinder Singh Sunday - has caught the Badal government on the wrong foot.
The village headman was caught on video camera slapping the hapless teacher repeatedly in the presence of several people, including Punjab Police officials.
The victim was only trying to reach Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal, daughter-in-law of the chief minister and wife of Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also Punjab's home minister, to submit a memorandum seeking permanent jobs for teachers when she was assaulted by the 'powerful' village headman in Daula village of Muktsar district, 280 km from here.
Thanks to the patronage of the Akali Dal leadership, a case was registered against the assaulter only 30 hours after the incident. He was finally arrested over 48 hours later but bailed out by police within minutes as only bailable charges were pressed against him.
'We are only demanding jobs and justice. But the way the Badal government is treating us, especially women teachers, is shameful,' Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) teachers union president Pritpal Singh told IANS.
'He attacked me without any provocation. We only wanted to meet the MP to submit our memorandum when he attacked me,' victim Barinder Pal Kaur said.
This is not the first time that EGS teachers and others are on the warpath with the Badal government.
Work in nearly 170 colleges across Punjab and Chandigarh has suffered in the last one month as college teachers, who are seeking implementation of a pension and gratuity scheme, have been observing frequent strikes. The scheme was approved by the Badal government during its last tenure in December 2001 but was never implemented.
December examinations in all colleges have been affected by the strike.
In June last year, two unemployed women teachers were seriously injured when they jumped from the top of a 90-foot water tank near Bathinda town, 250 km from state capital Chandigarh.
The teachers took the step after the district administration and state authorities failed to respond to their demands, including jobs and absorption in the state's education department. Nearly 10 teachers, including women, had perched themselves atop the water tank and were threatening to immolate themselves if the state government did not agree to their demands.
A woman teacher, Kiranjit Kaur of Faridkot, who was also from the EGS, had set herself on fire in Kapurthala town, 200 km from Chandigarh, in February last year after the state government failed to honour a promise to fulfil the demands of EGS teachers.
Kiranjit Kaur was one of the four protesting EGS women teachers who had climbed on the tower-type water tank at the civil hospital complex in Kapurthala to press her demands. She died in hospital in Ludhiana later after receiving 90 percent burns.
'The Punjab government has gone beyond all established practices and taken unprecedented initiatives to accommodate the demands of the volunteers under the EGS and all their demands have already been met,' a state government spokesman said here.
On an earlier occasion, the spokesperson said: 'Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had personally intervened to allow relaxations in the matter of recruitment, service conditions and examination requirements as demanded by EGS volunteers.'
The state government maintains that the EGS centres were opened in Punjab for a stipulated period and were later closed by the government of India on March 31, 2008. The services of EGS teachers were terminated when the scheme was shut down.
'Taking a sympathetic view due to the intervention of the chief minister, the EGS volunteers were accommodated in the ETT (elementary teachers training) courses. Nearly 1,500 volunteers were accommodated,' the spokesman said.
EGS teachers teach students up to Class 8 under a scheme of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in Punjab's rural areas.
In September 2007, nine teachers in Punjab, including five women, did the water tank stunt of actor Dharmendra from superhit 1975 film 'Sholay' by climbing on a water tank tower in Kapurthala town.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
©Indo-Asian News Service