Gujarat forces teachers into 'voluntary labour'

Gujarat forces teachers into 'voluntary labour'

Roping in government teachers for everything from election duties to health awareness campaigns to collecting census data of not just humans but of livestock as well is nothing new.

The Gujarat government is now planning to force government teachers to "voluntarily donate labour" by joining MNREGA workers to deepen water bodies and renovate lakes and water reservoirs as part of the government's water conservation drive.

On May 1, when the Gujarat Foundation Day was observed, the Vijay Rupani government launched a water conservation drive called 'Sujalam Sufalam Yojana'. The drive was intended to address the state's potable water problem.

The cost of the project is estimated at Rs 350 crore and it entails deepening lakes and ponds, renovating river banks, desilting water reservoirs, checking dams and other water bodies.

The taluka primary education officer of Khedabrahma block in Sabarkantha district has issued an order asking teachers to contribute to the drive by carrying out "shramdaan" (donation by providing labour).

In addition to this, an order in name of the Sabarkantha collector insists that teachers need to be present at the site of lake-digging between 9 am and 10 am and participate in the work.

The cluster resource coordinator has been instructed to reach the spot half an hour ahead of the schedule and also take photographs of teachers participating engaged in shramdaan and mail the pictures to the block resource coordinator.

"It is 'daan' and it cannot be by force. It has to be by choice. Gujarat has been falling in education over the last two-and-a-half decades. A recent report of the Government of India shows that the state has slipped to around 19th or 20th position — all due to the initiatives of the BJP-ruled government in the state," Manish Doshi, Congress spokesperson, said.

The Congress leader added that for teachers to be forcefully made to participate in the shramdaan would further dent the quality of education as teachers would be out in the open and not in the classrooms, where they ought to be.

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