In Kolkata, protesting candidates for teachers’ jobs emerge as symbols of resilience – The Hindu

Kolkata News

Protesting candidates who got selected as school teachers back in 2016 but never got the jobs are emerging as symbols of resilience and hope, with their sit-in in Kolkata crossing 600 days last week and support pouring in from various groups.

What has suddenly turned the focus on them is the arrests made in the recent months of high-profile officials — including the former Education Minister of West Bengal, Partha Chatterjee — who were allegedly part of a scam that saw undeserving candidates getting recruited as teachers in return for bribes.

“Even though more than 8,000 fake recruitments (appointment of undeserving candidates) have come to light, the deprived candidates have not yet got justice. We hope that the High Court and the State Government together will give us justice,” Partha Pratim Mondal, who is qualified to be a maths teacher and who was among the aspirants to initiate the protest, told  The Hindu.

Their protest began in 2019, when they staged a sit-in at the Press Club for 29 days. Then, in January 2021, they sat at Central Park in Salt Lake City for 187 days before they were removed by the police. Finally, they shifted to the Gandhi Statue at the Maidan, where they have been sitting in protest since October 8, 2021.

The protesting candidates, about 250 of them, had cleared the State Level Selection Test held in 2016 by the West Bengal School Commission, but they never got appointment letters. Many of them come from small towns in West Bengal and, while they hope to become teachers in government schools someday, are earning a living through tuitions. They take turns — 30 people permitted at a time, from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. — in keeping their peaceful demonstration alive at the Gandhi statue.

Support from transgenders

Last week, the protesters were visited by members of the transgender community, led by Ranjita Sinha, director of the Association of Transgender/Hijra. “They have made history. This is an important moment in the history of non-violent protests, that they have persisted for more than 600 days. Men, women, young mothers — everybody leaving their families and small children behind just to be able to sit for the protest, it is such a struggle. I can relate to the struggle because for the transgender people, every day is a struggle,” Ms. Sinha said.

Support comes not only from groups but also, quite often, from rank strangers, such as people driving or walking past the venue. Sometimes someone arranges for tea, someone brings biscuits. Such gestures are highly appreciated because the venue is right in the Maidan, the green lung of Kolkata, where refreshments are not easy to find. “During Durga Puja, someone got us food. Also, during Durga Puja, to my great surprise, one man actually got me onto his bike and showed me around a few pandals! Such support is our source of strength,” said Bikram Ghosh, who is hoping to be appointed as an English teacher in a government school.