The teachers’ protest, which had been ongoing for nearly ten days at the Directorate of Public Instruction campus in Nungambakkam, took an unexpected and controversial turn when the police intervened. For over a week, teachers from three segments, some with their families and children, had been staging an indefinite hunger strike, putting forth the following demands:
Equal Pay for Equal Work: Teachers appointed on and after June 1, 2009, claimed that they were paid Rs 3,170 less than those appointed before May 31, 2009. They demanded salary parity.
Permanent Positions: Temporary teachers sought to be made permanent, a demand that had remained unaddressed for years.
Employment of TET-Qualified Aspirants: The protesters demanded the employment of the Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET)-qualified candidates.
The demand for equal pay for teachers appointed before and after May 31, 2009, has been a longstanding issue. The Secondary Grade Seniority Teachers’ Association (SSTA) had been advocating for pay parity for nearly 14 years, with approximately 20,000 SGTs affected by the salary disparity. Despite promises made by the ruling DMK government before the 2021 assembly election, the issue remained unresolved.
Members of the Secondary Grade Seniority Teacher’s Association (SSTA) have shown resilience, vowing to continue their hunger strike until their demands for equal pay for equal work are met. They have also called for interim relief, covering a substantial portion of the income they have been losing every month, as an alternative solution.
On the ninth day of the strike, local police took drastic action, forcefully evicting the teachers from the protest venue at 5:30 am and detaining them at various locations throughout the day. Shockingly, the detained teachers were not provided transportation to return to their home towns. The police action came a day after School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi appealed to the teachers to end the protest and made announcements regarding their demands.
While the SSTA’s protest continues, other teacher associations with different grievances, such as the Tamil Nadu Teachers Recruitment Association (TNTET), candidates of the Teachers Recruitment Test (TET), and the Part-time Special Teachers’ Association, have called off their protests. This suggests a mixed outcome for the broader teacher community in the region.
Detained Protesters Released
In a late development, the protesters detained at six different community halls in the city were eventually released, including 592 women and 30 children among the 1,592 detainees. Women teachers among the released protesters expressed their condemnation of detaining children who had merely accompanied their parents to the protest, calling for sensitivity in handling such situations.
Political Reaction With Regard To The Protest By Teachers
The controversy surrounding the police intervention in the teachers’ protest has drawn strong reactions from political figures. TN BJP chief K Annamalai criticized the DMK government for not fulfilling election promises related to teachers’ issues, urging the release of all arrested teachers and the consideration of their legitimate demands.
Former Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswamy expressed disappointment in the DMK-led government for forcefully arresting the protesting teachers and called for their immediate release and the fulfillment of their demands.
Even DMK allies, including CPM, PMK, and other political parties, condemned the arrests, highlighting the widespread concern over the incident.
The Tamil Nadu teachers’ strike, initially a peaceful demand for equal pay, permanent positions, and fair hiring practices, took an unexpected turn when police forcefully ended the protest and detained over a thousand teachers and their families. The controversy surrounding this incident has drawn strong reactions from political figures and continues to be a matter of public concern in the state. The fate of the ongoing hunger strike and the broader implications for teacher grievances in Tamil Nadu remain to be seen.