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Op-Ed: ‘Teaching A Lesson’ To The Teachers

Now that the High Court has struck down the October 22, 2017 notification issued by the state government insisting on an affidavit to be furnished by the agitating teachers before they become eligible for revised pay under the grant-in-aid (GIA) policy as violative of the fundamental rights granted to all citizens under Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution, it would be interesting to see if the state government gives them their due or challenges the decision in the Supreme Court, as it has done in several cases in the past.

There is little doubt that the quashing of the affidavit clause in the notification by the High Court has come as a loss of face for the government. Even a cursory perusal of the HC order suggests that the government could invite greater embarrassment for itself if it refuses to see the writing on the wall and knocks on the doors of the apex court. But then pragmatism and clear-headed thinking have seldom been the forte of this government. For all one knows, it could still go ahead and challenge the High Court ruling even though it knows there is little chance of the HC verdict being overturned by the Supreme Court. One just has to recall how it ended up with egg on its face after choosing to go in appeal against the High Court verdict quashing the vigilance case registered against former DGP Prakash Mishra a few years ago to understand that this government often acts unthinkingly out of pique without weighing the pros and cons of a particular case.

For some reason, the state government has been steadfastly obstinate and confrontational while dealing with the just demands of the teachers even as it has gone on a dole announcement spree for various other segments of the population. Abolition of block grant, introduction of GIA and formulation of service rules to give every teacher their dues are all perfectly legitimate demands and there should have been no problem accepting these demands. But even when it finally conceded the demands, it chose to throw a spanner in the wheel by insisting on an affidavit from teachers that they would not go on strike or approach the courts in future. One presumes that the government would have consulted the Law department before issuing the notification on October 22 last year. It is not clear what advice the Law department tendered. But anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with constitutional provisions would have foreseen that such a clause would not stand the scrutiny of the courts. And yet, the government went ahead and issued the notification, unmindful of the consequences.

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The agitation by teachers has gone on for far too long, causing a severe disruption in the education system. Students have suffered as their teachers have spent the better part of academic session on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg (MGM) in Bhubaneswar to press their demands, frequently boycotting examination and evaluation work. The average man’s faith in government run or aided schools has been rudely shaken in the process. And all because of the intransigence of the government bent on ‘teaching a lesson’ to the teachers for their temerity in asking for their legitimate dues.

The inter-ministerial committee meeting presided over by Finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera on Tuesday could have settled the issue once and for all. But the fact that it remained ‘inconclusive’ even after three hours of brainstorming does not inspire much confidence that the government would concede the demands of the teachers in a hurry.

It is about time the government saw reason and stopped making it an ego tussle with the teachers. It must not challenge the High Court verdict and grant the teachers’ legitimate demands immediately. Once it does that, it would have the moral right to enforce discipline and accountability on them. It will be a win-win situation for both sides – and more importantly – for the lakhs of students, who have suffered due to the long-drawn confrontation between them.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same).

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