It sounded like a good idea at the time. But the decision to appoint about 2.30 lakh school teachers on 'fixed pay' as low as Rs. 5,000-Rs 7,000 per month in 2006 and 2007, appears to have boomeranged on the Nitish Kumar government.
On Thursday, 'fixed pay' teachers disrupted the movement of rail and road traffic by enforcing a Bihar bandh in protest against a police cane charge on their colleagues in Patna on Tuesday that left over 50 of them injured.
Simultaneously, on Thursday, the RJD-led opposition forced adjournment of both houses of Bihar legislature to press its 'adjournment motion' on the lathi-charge, which the presiding officers had rejected.
The police action on Tuesday came when the agitating teachers were 'laying seige' at R-Block, close to the legislature complex, to press a charter of their demands.
Moved by visuals of 'police brutality' in course of the action, the supreme court on Wednesday moved suo motu to seek an explanation from the state government on the matter.
For the past five months or so, the 'fixed pay' teachers have been stalking the government like a bad dream that refuses to go away. They are mainly demanding a regular 'pay scale' instead of a 'fixed pay'.
The government has rejected the demand, insisting they had been appointed on a fixed pay. Central to this stand is that a 'pay scale' would entail a quantum jump in their pay, burdening the exchequer, considerably.
The teachers, on the other hand, have cited a supreme court ruling laying down 'equal pay for equal work' (Randhir Singh v Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 879), to justify their demand.
"You can't have fixed pay teachers drawing a fraction of the salary of regular pay scale teachers working in the same school," said Pradeep Kumar, leader of Bihar Rajya Shikshak Sangharsh Morcha, an umbrella body of the fixed pay
Agitating fixed pay teachers were a source of immense trouble for chief minister Nitish Kumar, during his Adhikar yatra across Bihar last September and October, to garner support for his state-level rally held in Patna on November 4.
At several places, including Khagaria and Begusarai, protesting fixed pay teachers waved black flags at him, brandished slippers at his rallies and were blamed for widespread violence and arson.
The protests forced Kumar to abandon the Bhojpur (south central Bihar) leg of his yatra and prompted the authorities across the state to ban anything black, including dupatta of women, at his public meetings.
The November 4 Adhikar rally had been organized to persuade the center to grant 'special category state' status to Bihar, as demanded by the ruling JD (U).
The party is holding a rally in New Delhi on January 17, on this very issue.