Bengal Proposes Salary Hike, Dissatisfied Teachers Continue Hunger Strike

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KOLKATA: The West Bengal government has proposed a hike in the grade pay of the primary teachers, but the protesting teachers who were on fast for 13 days were not satisfied and decided to continue with their strike.
The government is ready to effect a hike in the grade pay of teachers from the existing Rs. 2,600-2,700 to Rs. 3,600 in future, education minister Partha Chatterjee said.

After a meeting with Trinamool Congress-affiliated primary teachers’ association, Ms Chatterjee also urged the teachers to call off their hunger strike.

The teachers, under the banner of the Usthi United Primary Teachers’ Welfare Association, has been demanding Rs. 4,200 as grade pay which will take their salary package to the range of Rs. 9,300-Rs. 34,800 a month.

In case of Rs. 3,600 hike in grade pay, the salary of the primary teachers will be something between Rs. 5,400 and Rs. 25,200, education department sources said.

“We are ready to effect a hike in grade pay to Rs. 3,600 and ask the finance department to put the hike into effect immediately. Teachers of primary section will be entitled to time-bound promotion to upper primary level,” the minister said.

The teachers said their counterparts elsewhere in the country get a consolidated salary package of Rs. 9,300-Rs. 34,800.

Their spokesperson Pritha Biswas said, “We cannot call off the fast at this stage. The government is not fulfilling the demand for effecting a hike in our salary on a par with primary teachers elsewhere in country.”

She said people from various organisations are visiting their fast site to show solidarity as “ours is a platform and we are not dictated by any particular political force.”

The minister said leaders of opposition parties had never worked towards betterment of the condition of the primary teachers but are now joining them.

Cautioning the agitators to ensure “they are not used as pawns by certain political forces”, Ms Chatterjee requested them to withdraw the agitation and return to classes as education of children are getting adversely affected.

Actor Soumitra Chatterjee, a winner of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, came in support of the fasting primary teachers today and urged the government to take steps to address their concerns “before it becomes too late and something tragic happens.”

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