450 School Service Commission Candidates on Indefinite Hunger Strike in West Bengal
The candidates are demanding that recruitments be made for vacant posts in schools across the state.
Almost 450 candidates who had applied for the post of assistant teachers and are in the waiting list of the School Service Commission (SSC) have been sitting on an indefinite hunger strike since February 28, in front of the Press Club, Dharmatala, Kolkata. These are candidates who had taken the SSC exams in 2013 and 2017, had qualified the exam and are on the waiting list for recruitment. They are demanding that recruitments be made in the numerous vacant seats across schools in West Bengal.
Sheikh Sirajuddin, a candidate who had taken the exam in 2017, for which the results were declared in 2018, said, “There has been no recruitment since 2014. Thousands of seats are lying vacant across schools in the state. The Education Minister says that qualified people were recruited. Does that mean that we are not qualified enough? We have all the documents and papers proving that we are.”
State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee met the agitating candidates on the fourth day of the hunger strike. However, they did not receive any assurance from him. The minister met a group of five representatives at his office, Bikash Bhavan, but yet again, failed to give any assurance. In what is being termed as a display of insensitivity, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reportedly said that the candidates could continue their hunger strike for as long as they wanted, and that the government could not do anything in the matter.
The last recruitment notification was released in 2014. After that, no notification has been released till date. The Education Minister said that since the elections were nearing, he needed to release another notification before it. If he fills the vacant seats now, he will not be able to release the notification. He is playing with the livelihoods of 5,000 people. They also maintain that SSC had empanelled comparatively higher number of candidates than the prescribed 1:1.4 ration and this has pushed many deserving candidates to the waitlist.
Several candidates who had been sitting on hunger strike since February 28, had to be hospitalised because of health complications, but even that has not discouraged the protesters a woman from North 24 Parganas district who was two months pregnant suffered a miscarriage during the hunger strike.
The agitators, on the other hand, have alleged that there is hardly any transparency in the merit list that the state School Service Commission has prepared. The state government seems to have turned a blind eye to the protests.