Shillong: Meghalaya police on Thursday lobbed tear gas shells and used force to disperse the agitating lower primary contractual teachers and their family members who were marching towards the state secretariat to mount pressure on the government to ensure they be reinstated in their jobs.
The incident took place in the afternoon when the group of teachers under the banner of Meghalaya Government Lower Primary School Contractual Teachers’ Association (MGLPSCTA) together with their family, including pregnant women and children, began their march from the Kiang Nangbah monument to the secretariat.
The teachers have been camping on the footpath in the area since September 7.
As they approached near the secretariat the police lobbed three tear gas shells at the agitating teachers.
It is not known whether any of the magistrates who were assigned to oversee the protest had ordered the police to lob tear gas shells at the unarmed school teachers.
“I don’t , I have just arrived here,” a magistrate said when asked.
However, district police chief of East Khasi Hills, Sylvester Nongtnger said the police had to fire tear gas because they turned violent.
“The police were left with no option to fire tear gas as the teachers suddenly turned violent,” he said.
However, nobody was injured in the incident.
The teachers didn’t relent and they went up to the main gate of the secretariat shouting slogans against the NPP-led MDA Government and demanded that they be reinstated.
Till the filing of this report the teachers are camping in front of the main secretariat, although the area around it has been placed under section 144 CrPC.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and his council of ministers were not inside the secretariat.
“We have decided not to move from this main gate of the secretariat till our demands are met and we are reinstated in our former jobs as teachers in lower primary schools,”MGLPSTA president, Birbor Riangtem told UNI.
Riangtem said that he and his fellow contractual teachers were compelled to bring their families since they have been badly affected after the government terminated their contract after they failed to clear the Meghalaya Teachers’ Eligibility Test (MTET.)
The teachers claimed that after several years of service they got just one chance to clear the exam and now they are over aged to sit for the test as per the eligibility criteria for appearing in the MTET. Most of the teachers who were terminated had just one attempt at MTET in 2021 as they are now overage.
Almost 900 teachers, out of the 1100, failed the exam when it was first held in 2021. To apply for MTET, a candidate cannot be over the age of 32 years.
Riangtem claimed that over 149 contractual teachers in Health Minister James Sangma’s Dadengre constituency were reinstated.
“We are all overage. We can’t apply for the examination anymore although we fulfilled all the other criteria like pass percentage in the 12 examinations. After years of service we are literally on the streets without any income,” a teacher said.
The teachers have met the Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and Education Minister, Lahkmen Rymbui on several occasions with their demand and each time they went back disheartened as the government has refused to revoke its decision.
On the other hand, Chief Secretary Donald Philips Wahlang had invited the agitating teachers for a meeting, but the agitating teachers have refused to meet the government officials and continue with their agitation till the government meets their demand.
TMC condemns use of tear gas shells
Meghalaya’s opposition Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday condemned the National People’s Party-led government for use of tear gas shells on the agitating lower primary contractual teachers and their family members who were on their way to the secretariat to demand they be reinstated in their jobs.
“This action of the government is deplorable, to say the least. My heart goes out to the families of the teachers and their children who had to go through this trauma of being tear-gassed by the police,” TMC president, Charles Pyngrope said.
Pyngrope said that the government should have behaved or acted in a more humane manner in dealing with such situations; especially, when the families of the teachers were also present.
“I would like to see that such actions in future do not occur irrespective of the situation that is created,” the TMC leader said.
VPP demands resignation of State Home Minister
Condemning the use of tear gas shells on agitating school teachers and their families, the Voice of the People Party (VPP) on Thursday demanded the resignation of Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui who is also the minister in-charge of Education portfolio.
“The minister in-charge of Home and Education should take moral responsibility and resign immediately and the police personnel involved in this inhuman be booked as this is an utter violation of human rights,” VPP general secretary Dr Ricky A J Syngkon said.
“First of all the Government had taken a categorical decision not to entertain the case of the contractual teachers and depriving them of their livelihood overnight which is an oppression against the nation builders. Secondly, the Government has miserably failed in managing this issue by not coming out an alternative solution but to force the poor contractual teachers to the streets,” Syngkon said.
Stating that If Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong and other ministers can undertake a junket tour abroad, the VPP asked, “why can’t they meet the agitating teachers?”
“Finally, this oppressive government has cowardly put a nail on the coffin by tear gassing the peaceful teachers as if they are hooligans..,” Syngkon further said.
“The violent act committed against the contratual teachers on the October 6, 2022 by this insensitive and corruptible MDA (Meghalaya Democratic Alliance) government is highyly condemnable by one and all who are part and parcel of a civil society other than those in a barbaric world,” the VPP said.
Meanwhile, KAM Meghalaya, a political party has demanded for an independent judicial enquiry into the incident.
“Anyone who is involved in excessive and high handedness should be punished as per law,” KAM leader Angela Rangad said, adding that it is also a matter of grave violation of human rights against women as there were no women police present and women were man handled by the police.
Rangad also demanded that the State Women’s Commission take cognisance and inquire into this.