Bengal’s university teachers have threatened to go on a 24-hour hunger strike on July 19 if the state government does not heed their demands for an upgrade in salary and added benefits. If that fails, they are ready to go on an indefinite strike.
The All Bengal University Teachers’ Association (ABUTA) held a sit-in-demonstration at College Square at 2 pm on Monday demanding the implementation of the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS), benefits for those with PhDs and MPhils as per UGC regulations 2010, the payment of arrears, and extending the retirement age to 65.
More than 200 demonstrators from Jadavpur University, Calcutta University, Kalyani University, Burdwan University, Vidyasagar University, West Bengal State University and Bengal Engineering and Science University, among others, gathered at College Square. The chairman of the West Bengal Joint Entrance Exam Board, Bhaskar Gupta, and JU professor and member secretary of the WBJEE board Kumardeb Banerjee were present at the demonstration.
“We have decided that if the government doesn’t respond positively to our demands, we will go on a 24-hour hunger strike on July 19. If that doesn’t work, we are prepared to go on an indefinite strike or a bigger movement,” said ABUTA general secretary TK Naskar. He also added that the teachers present at the protests were eager to take part in a bigger movement. “If classes are hampered, the government is responsible,” he said.
When asked what according to him was the reason behind the state’s lack of action, Naskar said, “Higher education is a low priority for the government. They don’t take it seriously.”
Is it a question of lack of adequate funds? “The state will be reimbursed by the Centre. The Centre has to give the Bengal government 80% of the amount needed for the implementation of the new benefits. Funds are not a problem — it is a question of lack of will,” Naskar said.