Even as the state is recovering from the impact of the 14-daylong primary teachers’ agitation last month, it’s now the turn of para-teachers as nearly 50,000 of the semi teaching staff from across the state have threatened to go for an indefinite mass agitation and hunger strike in front of Bikash Bhawan from 16 August demanding pay hike and upgraded status as permanent teachers.

Parsasikshak Aikya Mancha, a non-political confederation of para-teachers, is organising the mass assembly of their colleagues in front of Bikash Bhawan and several other organisations like the CPI-M-backed All Bengal Para Teacher’s Association, BJP’s Teacher’s Cell, Parateacher’s Coordination Committee have also have extended their voluntary support to the proposed movement.

Mr Bhagirath Ghosh, state convenor of the Aikya Mancha said: “We have been deprived to the extreme extent and the state government for long has maintained a complete indifference to our concerns. In the last three years, 98 cash strapped para-teachers from different primary and upper primary schools in the state have died either failing to meet their medical expenses or have committed suicide for want of money.”

He added: “We have urged the state government to consider the suggestions made by the National Council of Educational Research and Training made in 2009 where the central body had stated that it was the state’s prerogative whether the para-teachers would be absorbed as full time teachers.”

West Bengal currently has as many as 50,305 para-teachers in government or government-aided primary and upper primary schools across the state who were absorbed in 2004 and 2005. They are paid Rs 10,000 and Rs 13,000 consolidated monthly salary respectively.

The Centre and state shares the financial burden on 65:35 basis. “If our pay is hiked, Centre would accordingly bear 65 per cent, the major portion, which won’t cause severe impact to the state’s exchequer. We are yet to understand, why the state is not serious about us,” said Mr Chandrachur Ganguly, a state committee member of the Mancha from Burdwan (East).

State education minister, Mr Partha Chatterjee, on the seventh day of agitation demanding pay-revision by the primary teachers in July had stated that the pay hike demanded by the agitating teachers would cause the state government to incur expenses beyond its capacity. On the 14th day of the strike, however, the state government announced a hike in grade pay to put an end to the stir. Mr Ghosh said: “On 16 August, we shall start agitation where nearly 30,000 parateachers would assemble and the next day we shall stage a mass tonsuring in front of Bikash Bhawan.

Thereafter we shall begin a fast until death if our cry remains unheard. We have forwarded our notice to the state government on 2 August.” The Mancha has organised confidence building meetings in several parts of Burdwan (East) since 30 June.