The Sirsa administration in Haryana has decided to use the services of school teachers to put out fire in farmlands. In a surprise move, the tehsildar of Dabwali sub-division in Sirsa issued an order directing 67 government school teachers to take part in 'monitoring of stubble burning' incidents in the district.
Vijay Mohan Syal, the tehsildar who issued the order on 4 October, asked the teachers to supervise the control room built specifically to monitor the stubble burning incidents. The teachers will attend calls from informers in the control room and then direct fire brigades to the affected farms. The order, which was accessed by Firstpost, is signed by the tehsildar and was sent to the Block Education Officer (BEO).
The order contains the list of 67 teachers and also has a detailed rotation system set up for them. The teachers will have to work in shifts of 9 am-5 pm and 5 pm-10 pm.
Directing the BEO to assign the teachers to the control room from 4 - 31 October, the order further states that anyone who is negligent in his/her duty would have to face disciplinary action.
Expressing shock over the decision, BEO Baljinder Singh Bhangu said that it was a thoughtless move and would severely affect the students, some of whom are currently appearing for their mid-year exams.
"Whenever teachers are asked to engage in non-academic duties, it is eventually the students who suffer," Bhangu said. He added that the department will take up the matter with the district administration.
Bhangu also said that it was wrong on the part of the district administration to assign teachers to these duties. "It is the duty of concerned Panchayat and revenue department officials to conduct checks on stubble burning. They have to visit fields and inform the authorities, not the teachers from schools!" he said.
Sirsa district education officer Yag Dutt Verma, who has directed the BEO not to assign teachers till he speaks to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, said that the state and district were facing a severe shortage of teachers and in such a scenario, sending away the existing teachers for these duties was foolhardy.
"We have only 900 teachers when we should have 1,800 of them. Also, there are only 36 headmasters against the sanctioned strength of 93," he explained. "Now teachers who work at night for this stubble burning duty will have to miss class the next day!"
The teachers too are unhappy about the order from the tehsildar. Hansraj Kumar, the headmaster of Abubsehar village, said that one of their teachers' name was on the list and he did not know what to do. "We have 350 students and only seven teachers for all of them. Even losing one teacher to this stubble burning duty will upset our schedule," he said. "The teachers are already under immense pressure and sending them anywhere is impossible. But, we are bound by the order."
Bhagwan Dutt, president of Haryana School Lecturers Association, said that it was not the first case when government teachers were made to engage in non-academic duties.
"Instead of teaching in classrooms, government teachers are asked to be present for election duty, census duty, economic survey, distribution of pills and what not! On top of it, these are made compulsory," he said.
Tehsildar Syal confirmed that he had issued the order and defended it by stating, these teachers were the ones who were being regularly assigned duties for other projects. He denied having received any request from the education department to reconsider the order.
"The duty was assigned on the order of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and only the his office has the power to revoke the order," he said.
Interestingly, Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma who was recently in Bhiwani, where the education board headquarters is located, cited ignorance of any such order assigning duties to government teachers. "I am unaware of such an order but if it indeed exists, we will get it checked," he said.
Sat Singh is a Rohtak based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
Updated Date: Oct 07, 2017 12:30 PM