Hunger strike of Bengal madrasah teachers reaches 25th day; lady teacher dies
By Taha Amin Mazumder,
Kolkata/New Delhi, 25 Oct 2015: As Kolkata celebrated the days of Durga Puja amid joy, flamboyance and illumination, the days were dark and fateful for Chanda Saha's family. On the seventh day of the festivity on 20 October, Saha, 53, one of the hundreds of madrasah teachers, succumbed to a heart attack after returning to home at Pukuria of North 24 Parganas district from a hunger strike staged in Kolkata by the Madrasah Siksha Kendra Staff Association (MSKSA), an umbrella body of the Bengal government-sanctioned madrasah teachers, which has reached its 25th day of hunger strike on Sunday.
While the hundreds of agitating teachers working under the Sarva Sikhsha Mission have their madrasahs sanctioned by the government, their jobs are yet to be regularized and brought under the ambit of the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education, which is responsible for the payment of the regularized madrasah teachers in the state. "Technically speaking, sanctioning is different from regularization and does not assure that jobs and payments will be regular and authorized. The state government had sanctioned a total of 495 madrasahs, but until they are brought under the Madrasah Education Board, the fate of hundreds of us remains uncertain. We have been working on minimum wages ranging from 5 thousand bucks to 8 thousand, and our jobs can be terminated any hour," told Firoz Uddin Mohamad Shafi, secretary of the West Bengal MSKSA, to IndiaTomorrow.net while describing the situation.
"We are going to commemorate the death of Chanda Saha tomorrow on the 26th day of our hunger strike. Her death is an unfortunate event and is a result of the indifferent attitude of the government," added Shafi who is leading the strike, which they began on 1 October.
Chanda Saha, who left behind a paralyzed husband Saroj Kundu, 59, returned home anxious on 20 October after attending the hunger strike and was found dead by her relatives within hours. "She came back home because she was not feeling well, and was constantly saying ‘I don't know what is going to happen. How can I survive?' Then she attended uncle (Saha's paralyzed husband) for a while, took some tea, and switched the lights off, sitting on a chair to take rest after the day-long exhaustion. After a while at around 7 O'clock, we called her and found her cold and dead," said Chanda's 30-year-old nephew Shubhankar Saha over phone to IndiaTomorrow.net today.
Portrait of Late Chanda Saha
As the hunger strike of the madrasah teachers will reach 26th day tomorrow when the fellow teachers will commemorate Chanda's death, the government is yet to reach out to the striking teachers or offer them any solution. During the festive season, all educational institutions remain closed in West Bengal, which is cited as the cause for the so-far unresolved issue. "We had already sent a letter to Minority Development Minister Giyasuddin Mollah on 15 September and wrote we would go for large-scale agitation if our demands were not fulfilled by 30 September. We had to opt for the hunger strike on 1 October after receiving no response from the government, and nor have they found any solution for us even now," said Shafi who is leading the agitating teachers from 495 madrasahs.
While the All India Trinamool Congress-run West Bengal government is yet to respond to the demands of the hundreds of madrasah teachers, Chanda Saha's family is yet to come in terms with the collateral damage owing to an "indifferent" government attitude, which has not even announced any compensation for the family yet.