West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee on Saturday said the government cannot raise the pay scale of agitating primary school teachers to the level demanded by them as it will incur a huge expense on the state exchequer.
The indefinite fast of a section of primary school teachers demanding pay hike entered the seventh day on Saturday.
Urging the agitators to call off their hunger strike, Chatterjee said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is sympathetic to their demand.
"Effecting a hike as demanded by the agitating teachers will incur huge expenses which is beyond the capacity of the state government," the minister told reporters after meeting representatives of Usti Primary Teachers' Association.
But the state government can certainly look for some increase in the primary teachers salary, he said.
The minister lamented that the teachers went ahead with the fast despite his request to the association not to go for such agitation.
He said the fast should be called off as the students were suffering.
Chatterjee said he did not go to the venue of the hunger strike as it was being frequented by leaders of opposition parties.
While CPI(M) had done precious little when it was in power to effect a rise in the salary of primary teachers, the BJP should see if it can ensure the Centre bears the financial burden if the demands of the fasting teachers are met in toto, he said.
The agitating teachers are demanding that they be paid on a par with their counterparts in other states, which they claimed is "substantially" higher.
A member of the association said primary teachers are paid between Rs 9,300 and Rs 34,800 elsewhere in the country, while in West Bengal they have been receiving a salary in the pay scale of Rs 5,400-Rs 25,200 for years.
On the demand for revocation of recent transfer orders of 14 primary teachers to faraway places, the minister said hundreds of transfers had been made to have a proper student- teacher ratio in different schools.
However, if there was any unfair transfer, he will personally set that right, the minister promised.
The agitating primary teachers are also demanding revocation of the recent transfer order of 14 of their colleagues.
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