Vol. XL No. 37 September 11, 2016

Teachers’ Demonstration in Mumbai against Education Policy

Tapati Mukhopadhyay

NEARLY 4,000 teachers and non-teaching staff assembled at Charni Road railway station and marched towards Mantralaya in Mumbai on September 2 for defence of public-funded education from kindergarten (KG) to postgraduate (PG) level. However, Mumbai Police did not allow the marchers to proceed toward the Mantralaya. A meeting took place at Wilson College gymkhana ground at Marine Drive where leaders of various organisations vowed to continue the movement with broader unity across the state for saving the grant-in-aid system.
A broad-based platform with different stakeholders on educational front, namely school and college teachers, headmasters, non-teaching staff, RTE workers, students, minority educational trust members and small managements, were formed after a very successful convention in Mumbai on March 19, 2016. The convention resolved to convert itself into a state-wide platform to be called as Maharashtra Level Platform in Defence of Education for building up a sustained campaign and wider movement to defend public-funded education based on the principles of equity, social justice and quality.

A resolution was passed in the convention to organise the procession from the office of the Deputy Director of Education (Mumbai Region) on Charni Road to the Raj Bhavan to highlight a charter of demands: free and aided education for all – increase budgetary allocation and maintain democratic governance of education; regular payment of SC/ST student scholarships; appoint qualified teachers for all subjects in schools; restore 100 per cent salary grant to aided technical institutions; equal pay for equal work and equal payment for regular and contract teachers; scrap new pension scheme and continue old pension scheme for all; fill all vacant posts in schools, colleges and universities on regular basis; immediately start recruitment of non-teaching staff; pay 12 per cent non-salary grants to schools and colleges; save night schools and junior colleges; extend grant-in-aid to IT and other optional subjects; pay college staff salary on 1ST of every month like secondary schools; protect minority rights in education – save Article 30 of the Constitution; start scholarships for children of marginal farmers, daily wage workers and marginalised communities; accept Chiplunkar Committee recommendations; extend Savitribai Phule-Fatima Shaikh cashless health scheme to all; raise attendance allowance for girl students in rural areas to Rs 5 per day; and scrap the Maharashtra Public Universities Bill, 2015 and hold immediate elections to all university bodies as per the Maharashtra Universities ACT, 1994.

Two organisations – Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU) and Shikshak Bharti -- shared a joint convenorship of the platform. Chief Patrons are MLC Kapil Patil and Tapati Mukhopadhyay, President of the Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisation (MFUCTO). The situation aggravated in the educational front because of the recent policy initiatives of the government. Schools are affected by the policy of “one teacher for all languages” and “no appointment of teachers for Art, PT and Music”, which are obnoxious. Insult to the injury is the problem of non-payment of salaries for 10-12 months. A major crisis has developed in the aided engineering and pharmacy colleges and polytechnics where the staff has not received salaries for several months and the government has decided to give 90 per cent of salary grant; thereby arbitrarily changing the status from “fully funded” to “partially funded”. The most critical issue is the initiative to enact the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2015 that will lead to corporatisation of higher education and erode the democratic governance of universities. The impact of government policy to dismantle public-funded education is leading to a sense of unrest amongst all the stakeholders. Simultaneously there is an increasing awareness to build a wider unity to fight back the attack on public-funded education in the state as well as at the Centre.