On 29 July 2015, over 32 teachers’ organisation from Rajasthan came together under the banner of “Rajasthan Shiksha evam Shikshak bachao morcha”, to organise a massive demonstration at Jaipur in Rajasthan. Over 80000 teachers participated in the demonstration. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar had published a detailed report in the last issue (Aug 1-15, 2015). Correspondents of MEL participated in the rally and interviewed number of teachers. We are publishing some of these interviews.
Babulal Jain, State Secretary, Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh (Pratagatisheel)
ME: What are your demands?
BJ: The honourable eduation minister Shri Vasudev Devni has taken the decision to extend the duration of daily teaching, without taking into consideration the geographic, economic and social condition of the state. The revised timetable will upset the balance in the family and social commitment of women teachers. These teachers are behind the growth of education in the state. They reach out to various villages and hamlets in the state, alongside paying attention to their family and social commitments. The other important question is how are students going to attend the classes for 7 hours at a stretch. We demand that that the decision to extend the teaching time be taken back.
MEL: Over 17 thousand government schools have been closed by merging them, giving the excuse that the government does not have enough teachers. On the other hand, the government is spreading lies that teachers don’t do their jobs. Is this not an excuse to promote the policy of privatisation of education?
BJ: Absolutely right. The government is trying to run the schools on PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) mode, and to do this, it is spreading rumours and lies about the teachers. We say that the teacher is the only person who alerts every village when he or she arrives and leave the school by ringing the bell. They are honest to their profession, and are respected by the entire village. We see an army of IAS officer’s running various departments in the state. They were all educated in these same schools. The teachers have poured their sweat to make them capable of taking up such responsible positions. If the teachers were not honest to their profession is it possible that we could gave achieved such positive results?
I will give you an example of how PPP system operates in education. We have one Geetanjali Medical College in Udaipur. When the college was started it was claimed they would produce doctors by charging only Rs. 10000/-. But now private players are controlling the college and are chanrging Rs.25-50 lakh for admission. Can any student from a poor family ever afford to become a doctor, or an engineer or a scientist? This is the reason we are opposing PPP.
It is claimed that the government is of the people and for the people. If the government cannot serve the people, then why not hand over the government itself to a private company to run its affairs on a PPP model? Privatisation is leading to increased exploitation and oppression of workers. We are being treated like slaves and the workers and peasants in the entire country are agitated.
MEL: What are your next steps?
BJ: We will work in the interest of the country and we will take full compensation for our work. Government is extending the teaching hours, we will demand extended remuneration. As it is government is not giving us the increment and benefits provided by the central government. Second we will step up our struggle, such that the ministers in the government will not find a place to hide. We will oppose the privatisation of education tooth and nail and intensify our united struggle.
Girish Kumar Sharma, General Secretary, Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh (Pragatisheel)
MEL: You had used the word “socialism”during your speech. The attacks against teachers, workers, peasants and their entire society are on the rise. Do you think this is the time to wage revolution?
GKS: For some time the revolution was on retreat, but now it seems to be on upswing. Whenever oppression increases, revolution is likely to break out spontaneously. But for success of the revolution we need proper leadership, which can lead our way.
Today privatisation is extending everywhere. Everything is being commercialised. There is need to wage an offensive against capitalism. There is need to develop the struggle and inspire it in the direction of socialism. There is a need to build a powerful movement. It will be as powerful as that independence movement. Today there is attempt to enslave India by capitalism, and we have to raise the banner of revolution against it.
MEL: what if the government does not fulfil your demands?
GKS: if the government does not pay heed to pur demands, we will take their life hell. Whether we win or loose in this agitation, one thing is for sure, that it will raise the consciousness of the people for revolution.
MEL: is your organisation going to participate in the 2 September All India Strike called by the trade unions?
GKS: The teachers in Rajasthan are very agitated. In our opinion we should participate in the all India strike. The government wants to completely end the government schooling system. Why should we wait for government to go further, we should take proactive position and oppose such moves.