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EDITORIAL: No Carrots, No Sticks

With the Council of Teachers’ Association sticking to its gun and refusing to budge an inch, the SPF Government has had to fall back on alternative means and rope in the services of part time lecturers, teachers from Government aided schools as well as teachers from private schools to double up as invigilators for the HSLC and HSSLC examinations, which are already within shaking hands distance.

Teachers going on strike to demand, what they perceive is their rightful due, is not unique to Manipur, but what is unique is the frequency of strikes or cease work strikes resorted to by the teaching community to force the Government to toe its line and what we see today, just ahead of the HSLC and HSSLC examinations is one more indication of how things work here.

Everyone seems to know what the teachers are demanding-that is implementation of the 6th Pay Commission in toto- with the Government refusing to fall in line on the ground that the financial conditions of the State exchequer is not healthy enough to meet the demand of the teachers. This much is clear to the people, but there are definitely many shades of grey areas, where not everything has been laid on the table for the public to discuss and debate upon.

Chief Minister O Ibobi has once again gone back to his favorite position, which is to adopt a sphinx like stand, adding to the prevailing confusion. The matter need not have been that critical, if only it had been handled with a little foresight, coupled with mastering the art of the carrot and stick policy. It is more practical and more reliable today to see the positive sides of such a policy, because this is what politics of the day demands. Coax, cajole or cane them, are old formulae, which have been used to good effect by leaders, who are today regarded as statesmen of the highest order.

If the SPF Government really means that it is not in a position to meet the demand raised by the teachers, then it should say so and act accordingly when any teacher runs truant. On the other hand, if its pocket is deep enough to fork out the hiked salaries, without running into some financial mess, then it should go ahead and meet the demand of the teachers.

The major problem with the deadlock, as we see it, lies not in the demand raised by the teachers or the refusal of the Government to meet their demand, but in the extreme lack of any transparency. Even as this editorial is being written, the Chief Minister has convened a Cabinet meeting, where among other things; the demand of COTA would be discussed. This is the pits and it reeks of a Government unable to tackle any crisis or take a definite stand. If the Cabinet is to discuss the demand of COTA then, there is no business why this drama should have been allowed to drag on for so long. On the other hand, if the Government is really firm in its stand, then there is no point in wasting time over an issue for which a decision has already been taken.

It is against this background that the Government has started scouting for private school teachers and others to double up as invigilators during the crucial Class X and Class XII examinations. We wonder what step it would take, when the time comes for examining the papers of the students. Would it be handed over to the teachers in private institutions or has the Government decided to quietly ignore this for the moment?

Maybe the Government does not care or maybe the teachers working under the Government give a damn about the fate of thousands of students, but we as parents and adults of society and as a responsible newspaper, certainly do care about the future of our children and hence this opinion.  This is not the first time that teachers have taken recourse to a cease work strike and this will not be the last either and it is against this background that we have witnessed students  coming out on the street to demand their right to education ! This is a ‘Made in Manipur’ spectacle and no other State of the Indian Union can beat us on this.

It is again against this background that student organizations have come out with the clarion call to make education a free zone. It is imperative that no room is given to misinterpret this call or use it for one’s own convenience and the merit and circumstances under which the ‘free zone’ call has gained currency over the years should not be lost on anyone, especially those in the teaching profession. As things have unfolded, no one seems to care about the young students, especially those studying in Government schools and it would have been so positive if only the teachers had also shown the same grit and determination in discharging their duties, as they have shown in sticking to their demand to implement the 6th Pay recommendations.

To demand a hike in their pay and on the other hand to continue recording nil in the HSLC examination is a contradiction in its self. As things stand today, it is a no win or lose-lose situation for all parties concerned, but at the same time let’s try and see if some lessons can be learnt from this experience. To make the most out of a lost case, let’s take this opportunity to remind the Government school teachers that their pay should be consonant with their performance and the Government too should realize that teachers cannot be taken for granted. If these points register in the minds of those who matter, then the present fiasco being staged under our very nose, would have borne something productive.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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