Tribune News Service
Patiala, February 10
A peaceful protest turned violent when thousands of contractual teachers clashed with the police here today. In fact, 25 people, including 10 police officials, got injured after thousands of teachers triedto march towards the residence of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
The police resorted to lathicharge and used water cannons to disperse the protesting teachers when they tried to scale the barricades near the junior wing of Budha Dal Public School — hundreds of metres away from the CM’s residence.
The protest march was a part of the ongoing agitation against the various arm-twisting tactics used by the state government to force the teachers to join at a monthly salary of Rs 15,300.
Teachers claimed that despite the releasing of the funds by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD), the government slashed the salaries of teachers who didn’t accept the offer at their (government) terms.
During the clash, police officials, including Superintendent of Police (SP) Harwinder Virk, also sustained injuries.
Following the violence, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mandeep Singh Sidhu and Deputy Commissioner Kumar Amit immediately rushed to the spot.
Leading the protesters, co-convener of the Sanjha Adhyapak Morcha Davinder Punia, said, “The government has become very insensitive towards the demands of the teachers. We have been protesting since long, but Capt Amarinder has not met us even once. More than 10 times, the CM has cancelled the scheduled meeting with teachers.”
Parties flay government
Different political parties have condemned the government for lathicharge on protesting teachers at Patiala.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA and Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema and MP Bhagwant Mann said the protesting teachers who were struggling for their legitimate right were brutally beaten up by the police. The AAP leaders said it was the same government which before the election was claiming to provide “ghar-ghar rozgaar”. They said if the CM did not stop behaving like an emperor, the masses would give a befitting reply in the coming elections.
Punjabi Ekta Party’s Sukhpal Khair and Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) leader Ranjit Singh Brahampura also condemned the use of force against teachers in separate reactions. Khaira said they support legitimate demand of the teachers.
Brahmpura said the Congress government had been trying to suppress the voice of the common man with the power of lathicharge and water cannons attack. “The peaceful protest was a democratic right of the people but the Punjab government has lost its sensitivity,” he added.
MP Dharamvira Gandhi condemned the police action on the protesting teachers. Gandhi said, “I strongly condemn the police action on teachers. The state government’s ‘employment fair’ is out in open and Captain’s ‘Har Ghar Naukri’ promise has turned out to be a cruel joke for the youth of Punjab.”
Gandhi demanded that the government should immediately regularise the services of protesting teachers without reducing their pay.
Agitation route changed
Earlier, the teachers had planned to carry out the protest from the Veer Haqiat ground to the YPS roundabout in Patiala. However, they changed the route near Fountain Chowk, evidently to circumvent the police barricades. Subsequently, thousands of cops, who were stationed on the way, had to rush to the junior wing of Budha Dal School to stop the protesters. The water-cannon vans and anti-riot vehicles were also shifted to the new spot.
Call off strike on Capt’s assurance
- The teachers called off protest late Sunday evening after getting an assurance of a meeting with the Chief Minister and Education Minister. Capt Amarinder Singh will meet them on February 28
- Earlier in the day, the Chief Minister appealed tothe protesting teachers and other employees to shun the path of agitation and show some patience, as the state was committed to finding an amicable solution to their demands
- He assured them that the Cabinet sub-committee formed by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra was already trying to find a solution to their demands