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500 Indian teachers pin hope on Rao's Nepal visit

As new Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Monday began her two-day visit to Nepal, 500 Indian teachers are hoping the senior official's consultations with Nepali authorities would take them closer to their dues, for which some of them have been fighting for nearly three decades.

world Updated: Sep 14, 2009 19:29 IST

As new Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Monday began her two-day visit to Nepal, 500 Indian teachers are hoping the senior official's consultations with Nepali authorities would take them closer to their dues, for which some of them have been fighting for nearly three decades.

When the first schools started in Nepal, due to the lack of trained teachers, the country recruited teachers from India.

But despite their contribution to the education sector, 500 Indian teachers employed in government schools are still struggling to be made permanent.

"I have been a teacher in Nepal for 25 years," said Balji Pandey, member of the Indian Teachers' Association Nepal who teaches in Nawalparasi district. "But my post is yet to be made permanent. It means I don't get medical benefits, provident fund dues, promotion and pension at the end of my career."

Teachers retire at the age of 50 in Nepal and the struggling Indian teachers are apprehensive that by the next decade, they will be shown the door without receiving any of the benefits due to them.

In June 1990, when Nepali prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai visited New Delhi, he signed a joint pact with the then Indian premier VP Singh, agreeing to treat Indian teachers employed in government schools in Nepal the way Nepali teachers are and make their jobs permanent.

However, nearly two decades later, the promise is yet to be fulfilled.

The Indian government has raised the issue with Nepal several times but to no avail. The Indian teachers have been on a hunger strike in Nepal to push for their demand but that too has not yielded any result.

In April, the association sent a memorandum to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, drawing his attention to the 'discrimination' and urging him to take action.

Now with Rao beginning bilateral consultations with the Nepali authorities, the struggling teachers are praying their rights will also feature in the talks.

Rao held consultations with her Nepali counterpart, Gyan Chandra Acharya, before meeting Nepali Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala.

In the evening, she will pay a courtesy call on President Ram Baran Yadav.

The Indian envoy will also meet Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and visit the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu Tuesday.

The revered 5th century shrine became a matter for Indian concern after its newly appointed Indian priests were assaulted by demonstrators, alleged to be led by the opposition Maoist party, demanding the appointment of Nepali priests.

Though the meeting will be an ice-breaker during which the new Indian foreign secretary will get acquainted with the Nepali authorities, some of the talks will also touch upon the agreement signed between India and Nepal during the Nepali prime minister's visit to New Delhi last month.

The 34-point agreement includes cooperation in the areas of security, hydropower, road connectivity, education and trade.