Seven jobless teachers, including four women, kept the city on tenterhooks for nearly five hours on Sunday when they threatened to jump off a water supply tank if their demand was not accepted.
Residents watched in disbelief as the teachers — inspired perhaps by Hindi blockbuster Sholay — more than once leant over the railing of the high structure near Gole Diggi as officials and protesters on the ground pleaded with them not to take the extreme step.
Members of the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) Teachers’ Union, they were demanding starting of the Elementary Teachers Training (ETT) course for them.
The seven agreed to step down in the evening only after being handed over a letter of assurance to start an ETT course for 3,175 EGS teachers from June.
With Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in town, a heavy police force was deployed to cordon off the area where the agitation was on.
As soon as teachers on the ground tried to burn an effigy of the Punjab government, the police thwarted the move. But in a pre-planned move, seven protesters climbed atop the water tank. Raising slogans, they threatened to immolate themselves and jump off the tank.
Other EGS teachers tried to burn an effigy near Fauji Chowk, where the police resorted to a lathicharge, injuring some protesters.
Union leaders said they were employed as teachers under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan and were suddenly relieved of their duties. They said the state government was now dilly-dallying on admitting them for an ETT course.
Volunteers of NGOs, firemen, safety nets and ambulances were arranged to tackle any eventuality.
Bathinda deputy commissioner Rahul Tiwari and senior superintendent of police Ashish Chaudhary too reached the spot to defuse the situation.
Tiwari, who remained in touch with his seniors in Chandigarh, succeeded in getting a fax from the CM’s residence in the evening, giving an assurance that the ETT course would be started in June.
A union leader then went up the tank to pacify the seven, who came down raising slogans.