Assam teachers mock 'chowkidar' campaign, prefix 'driver' to their names to protest state minister's comment

After the Bharatiya Janata Party, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, began the campaign of using the word 'chowkidar' as a prefix, a similar campaign has been started by thousands of teachers in Assam, who have begun using the word "driver" as a prefix ahead of their names.

However, the latter campaign has been started as a form of protest against Assam education minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya.

This innovative step has been taken up by over 40,000 teachers who have been recruited through the Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET) in the state. These teachers are commonly known as TET teachers. Their protest campaign began on Friday, after Bhattacharya compared the pass certificate of the TET with a driving license in a live programme on All India Radio, Guwahati a day earlier.

Bhattacharya, while taking live questions during the programme, replied to a question by a TET teacher from Barpeta about regularisation of jobs. He said that TET teachers have to renew their "licence" (the pass certificate of the TET exam) to continue their jobs, just like driving licences need to be renewed from time to time.

 Assam teachers mock chowkidar campaign, prefix driver to their names to protest state ministers comment

A meme mocking Assam education minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya, which is being shared on social media. Image procured by Syeda Ambia Zahan

Teachers recruited on the basis of TET have been facing uncertainty in Assam as their jobs are not being regularised by the government. In 2016, before the Assembly polls, the BJP had promised to regularise the services of all the TET teachers in the state. But so far, over 40,000 jobs are yet to be regularised.

Wali Ahmad Tapadar, a teacher from Hailakandi district appointed through TET in 2017, said, “I passed the test in 2014 and got my appointment in 2017. The then education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma promised to regularise our jobs within eleven months. But after he resigned from the ministry and Siddhartha Bhattacharya took over, we have been facing a lot of problems. Our salaries do not come on time, and the new education minister has not taken any step to regularise our jobs."

Tapadar further said, “We are very upset about the comparison of the TET certificate with a driving license. So, we have decided to organise a silent, but powerful protest."

The state government had held the Teachers’ Eligibility Test for the first time in the year 2012 for appointment of teachers for lower primary and upper primary school students. That year, 52, 772 candidates cleared the test, and out of them, 26,100 were selected for jobs. Out of the 26,100 teachers, half were regularised in a phase-wise manner. The government held the TET till 2014, when a total of 90,043 candidates passed. As of now, around 40,000 teachers are working on a contractual basis. The decision of the government to hold the exam again in September has raised concerns among those who have already passed and are awaiting regularisation.

Several teachers have prefixed the word 'driver' to their names on social media. Syeda Ambia Zahan

Several teachers have prefixed the word 'driver' to their names on social media. Syeda Ambia Zahan

Santosh Kaushik, Block Secretary of Primary TET Teachers’ Association in Naduar of Biswanath district said, “As teachers, we do not have time to protest against everything that makes us upset. But this statement of the education minister is a very derogatory one. His statement is applicable to those who have passed the TET but have not been appointed. They can sit for the exam again to renew the validity of the certificate. But as far as those of us who have been teaching for years are concerned, comparing our TET certificates to driving licenses is not done.”

However, Bhattacharya said, "I was just giving an example. Like the driving licence comes with a definite term, TET pass certificates also come with a term. I would like to ask teachers to appear for the test in September this year.”

A TET pass certificate is valid for seven years from the year of passing. A regularised teacher need not sit for the test again after completion of the term. But the government has made the test mandatory for the contractual teachers.

On 18 June, the TET teachers for primary schools in every district of Assam will stage protests in front of their respective Deputy Commissioner’s office, and will send memorandum letters to the chief minister demanding regularisation of jobs.

The teachers are also planning a sit- in-demonstration in Dispur on 29 June.

Meanwhile, the teachers have addressed a letter to the prime minister's office (PMO) seeking regularisation of their jobs, and thousands of copies of this letter have been sent to the PMO.

Updated Date: Jun 16, 2019 17:05:13 IST