Teachers Protest Against Punjab Govt’s Drastic Salary Cut, Initiate Fast Unto Death

Poll Kholo rally over the state government’s decision to cut pay

More than 9,000 teachers in Punjab held a “Poll Kholo” rally under the banner of Sanjha Adhyapak Morcha (SAM) and organised a sit-in dharna at Patiala’s Fountain Chowk on Sunday, October 21, in protest over the state government’s decision to bring down their pay scale.

For the past one week, school teachers enrolled in the centrally sponsored scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) or the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) have been protesting against the state government’s decision to regularise their jobs at a salary of Rs 15,300 per month for the first three years.

The Punjab state cabinet regularised more than 8,886 teachers under the SSA/RMSA earlier this month, but cut their salaries by as much as 65-75 per cent. This decision by the state government brought the salary of teachers down from Rs 40,000 or 50,000 per month to Rs 15,000 per month.

As per the notification issued by the State Director General School Education (DGSE), teachers have been given a chance to give options as to whether they want their services to be regularised within the Punjab Education Department or to continue working under the SSA/ RMSA society on a contractual basis.

Krishan Kumar, Secretary of the Department of Education, said: “We have given two options to the teachers, either continue with the present contractual arrangement or accept regular jobs at a monthly salary of Rs 15,300.” They have been given a deadline of October 23, to confirm their decision.

The notification also stated that “only the staffs that opt for regularisation within this period will have their services regularised in the department and others will miss the opportunity to be regularised.”

Hardeep Todarpur, co-convener of the Sanjha Adhyapak Morcha, while speaking to The Citizen said: “The Punjab Education Department has ignored the MHRD's orders, which clearly state that there will be no separate cadre of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) teachers, as all teachers are the responsibility of the state government.”

Another leader, Davinder Punia said: “It is unfortunate that the teachers have to protest in such a manner. The Education Minister of Punjab and Secretary of Education Department should resign.”

The decision by the Punjab Government invited large scale protests from teachers across the state, with various teachers' unions announcing strikes to demand the reinstatement of their previous pay scale. 16 teachers have been sitting on a fast unto death since October 6. Another eight teachers were reported to be in a critical state and were admitted to the local hospital.

Five teachers returned awards for excellence given to them by the Punjab government as a sign of resentment and protest.

Leaders of the Sanjha Adhyapak Morcha also said, "If the government reinstates our original pay scale, we shall teach 2 hours extra to compensate the loss that students suffered due to protests."



Teachers at a protest march



Teachers at a protest march