An indefinite strike by government teachers in Odisha has thrown the daily functioning of over 50,000 schools into chaos. The strike, which began on September 8, encompasses a staggering 1.30 lakh teachers who are protesting against the termination of the contractual appointment system and advocating for the reinstatement of the previous pension scheme. Despite the government’s appeals, the teachers remain resolute in their protest.
The primary demands of the protesting teachers revolve around the removal of the contractual appointment system, an increase in grade pay, and the restoration of the old pension scheme. One of the striking educators lamented that the government had failed to address their concerns, compelling them to take mass leave and stage protests outside the offices of Block Education Officers (BEOs).
In response, the Odisha state government has formed a five-member sub-committee tasked with reviewing the teachers’ demands. This committee will present its findings to an inter-ministerial panel, which will then make the final decision regarding the teachers’ demands. Some striking teachers have criticized this move, questioning the need for a sub-committee when an inter-ministerial panel was already in place. Allegations have arisen that the sub-committee was merely established to delay the resolution process.
The teacher’s strike has triggered strong reactions from opposition parties. The BJP and Congress have both chastised the Odisha government for its perceived negligence in addressing the grievances of the protesting educators. The BJP’s Anil Biswal criticized the state government for spending a significant sum on a secretary’s helicopter ride while failing to provide adequate salaries to teachers. State Congress president Sarat Pattanayaks expressed concern about the dire state of the education system in Odisha, characterizing it as an ’emergency’ situation and accusing the government of insufficient action.
Ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Arabinda Dhali assured that the state government would genuinely examine the demands of the protesting teachers.
To monitor the situation, the Directorate of Elementary Education in the Odisha government has instructed all Block Education Officers (BEOs) to submit daily reports on teacher attendance. These reports will document teachers who are absent due to the strike and those who have fulfilled their duties, especially the contractual teachers. The strike continues to disrupt education in the state, with the future course of action resting on the government’s response to the teachers’ demands.