‘Will continue to priest until our voices are heard’
Sujata Rani Ghorai, 31, travels five days a week from Chandipur in East Midnapore to Kolkata, a distance of about 120 kilometers, to participate in the sit-in dharna of future teachers at the foot of the statue of Gandhi on the Mayo Road intersection in downtown Calcutta. She spends 14 hours a day on travel and dharna and spends about Rs 300 daily in hopes of taking her vote to the power corridors of Bengal for what she believes is a legitimate job requirement.
Sujata was seen with hundreds of other teacher candidates sharing a similar situation on Mayo Road on Teachers Day. The dharna completed an incredible 540 days on Monday and Ghorai, who passed the 2016 SLST exams in philosophy in classes XI-XII and ranks 38th in the Waiting for Women (SC) category, sounded resolute.
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“I will continue to be part of this protest demonstration until our voices are heard. I know failed candidates, candidates who submitted blank papers, and even those who were far below me already recruited by the Bengal School Service Commission. They must be identified and discarded. Those like us on the list must be recruited fairly. And quickly,” she said.
Sujata’s father worked in a brick kiln to save for her daughter’s education. At the age of 73, he is ill and can no longer provide for the family. “I have missed the opportunity to take classes on weekdays because I have to travel to this dharna. I earn with the tuition I give on weekends. That’s barely enough to support my family. A teacher of mine gave me a loan to complete my B.Ed course. I can’t even give that money back. My parents’ dream of seeing me as a teacher is being shattered by this corruption,” Sujata said with tears in her eyes.
‘Couldn’t give my father the best treatment due to lack of job’
The story of Shukla Deb, who regularly travels from Dinhata, Cooch Behar in North Bengal to participate in the corruption protest for teacher recruitment, is no different. Shukla obtained the SLST in Political Science in 2018 and was ranked 43rd in the General Female category. Shukla has recently married and has yet to find a job while supporting a dependent mother and younger sister.
“My father died during the 3rd phase of Covid in August 2021. Doctors referred him to a hospital in Siliguri. I didn’t have the means to hire an ambulance to travel that far. I couldn’t give him the best treatment he deserved, which I could have done if I had a job,” Sujata said, tears trickling from her eyes.
While the future teachers demanded recruitment for the Durga Puja in October, Shukla held a poster that read: “Wish to spend this Puja with family”.
‘We can no longer sustain unemployment. we are desperate’
Sahanur Reja from Dewanhat in Cooch Behar obtained SLST in 2016 and was ranked 177th in Bangla in OBC (Male-Female) category. He claimed: “The recruitments were made for the first 108 candidates on the merit list. Then, much to my dismay, there was a jump and a rank 194 candidate was recruited while the rest of us were let down.”
With elderly parents to support at home, Sahanur opposed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement that Supreme Court petitions prevented her from making new hires. “There is no freeze on Supreme Court hiring. Didi should see that we can no longer sustain unemployment. We are desperate,” it sounded annoyed.
‘My family is ready’
For Palash Mondal, ranked 219 in English subject in the male-female category of SLST, 2016, that time is almost up. Palash temporarily resides in the Sonarpur area in South 24 Parganas, while his family resides in Gosaba in the remote Sunderbans Delta in the same district. “My family now lives by word of mouth with what little farming my parents can do at their age. Many candidates outside the panel have jobs and I can’t wait much longer. The netas assure me that everything will be fine soon, but I see no light at the end of the tunnel,” said Palash, who has visited the dharna site regularly for the past three years.
“We don’t even know how much recruitment corruption has taken place… Whether it’s 10 people per list who have been irregularly appointed, or 100,” added Sangita Nag, an incendiary candidate from Basirhat in North 24 Parganas.
Expressing his solidarity with the protesting teacher candidate on Teacher’s Day, BJP leader and actor Rudraneel Ghosh said: “Our Chief Minister is not eager to stand in pain with these teachers. These are the teachers who would determine the future of this state. Instead, she stands in for those who illegally recruited by indulging in corruption. People are watching and will respond in due course.”
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