The Tamil Nadu government issued show cause notices on Monday to government school teachers who have been on strike for the past six days, demanding, among other things, that the government return to the old pension scheme that prevailed till December 31, 2003.

The notice, issued through the chief educational officers in all districts, asks the protesting teachers to explain their absence from work without prior permission. If they fail to do so within 15 days, the government plans to invoke Rule 17(b) of the Tamil Nadu Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules. Under this, the teachers will be subjected to major penalties, including the loss of their increments and a delay of three years in their promotions.

Undeterred by the notice, the majority of the teachers have decided to continue their strike till the government fulfils their demands. “The government has told that they will talk to us only if we postpone the protest,” said Shankar Perumal, state coordinator of the Joint Action Council of Tamil Nadu Teachers Organisations and Government Employees Organisations, under whose aegis the teachers are protesting. “We will withdraw the protest only if our demands are met. The protest will intensify from Tuesday.”

Indefinite strike

At least 4 lakh teachers went on indefinite strike in the state on January 22. They have a seven-point list of demands, including an increase in their pay to bring it on par with that of Central government employees, and the payment of arrears according to the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.

PK Ilamaran, state president of the Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Association, told that at least 1,546 teachers have been arrested for participating in the protest so far. “Over 400 teachers have been suspended across the state,” he said.

On Sunday, VC Rameswaramurugan, the director of school education, in a letter to all the chief educational officers, urged the protesting teachers to return to work by Monday. The teachers were warned that if they did not do so, their posts would be considered vacant and temporary teachers would be posted in their positions. On Monday, The New Indian Express reported that over a lakh candidates had applied for the 422 posts created by the suspensions of teachers so far.

In a press statement on Monday, the Directorate of School Education noted that a total of 64% of the state’s teachers – across its elementary, high and higher secondary schools – have participated in the protest. In the same release, it said that the directorate had taken steps to ensure that the practical examination for Classes 10, 11 and 12 scheduled for Friday took place without any problems.

No money, says government

On Saturday, Tamil Nadu Minister for Fisheries D Jayakumar told the media that government teachers and employees must not make demands that the government was unable to fulfil. He said implementing the old pension scheme would “bankrupt the government”, and that an expert committee that had studied the proposal had also rejected it. “Employee salary and pensions would have to be paid borrowing money, leaving nothing for welfare schemes for the poor,” The News Minute had quoted Jayakumar as saying.