Eds: Incorporating related stories) Kolkata/New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) The indefinite fast by para-teachers in West Bengal to press for a salary hike entered its eighth day and reached the floor of the Lok Sabha as heated arguments were witnessed between treasury and opposition benches on the issue on Friday.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar also appealed to all sides concerned to initiate a dialogue for resolving the issue.
Over 1,000 para-teachers, who are contractual teachers in government-run schools, are on a sit-in since November 11.
At least 37 of the protesting teachers are on an indefinite hunger strike from November 15 and about 10 of them have fallen sick, an organisation of the para-teachers said.
The issue has snowballed into a major political issue with the opposition BJP and Left Front accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of turning a blind eye to the agitation of the para-teachers.
The ruling Trinamool Congress has countered the charge claiming that the saffron camp is fishing in troubled waters.
The issue reached Parliament after BJP MPs from West Bengal raised it in Lok Sabha.
As soon as BJP MP Locket Chatterjee started speaking on the issue, TMC members rushed to the well of the House and claimed she was misguiding the members.
Referring to the death of para-teacher Revati Raut in West Midnapore district, the BJP criticised the TMC government in the state.
Raut, a middle-aged para-teacher who had taken part in the sit-in in Kolkata for several days, died at her residence at Debra in West Midnapore on Thursday, Bhagirath Ghosh, co- convenor of the 'Para-Teacher Oikyo Manch' which is spearheading the movement, said.
TMC Lok Sabha party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay denied that a para-teacher has died.
'It is a false propaganda by the BJP to malign our state government. Not a single para-teacher has died. The state government has taken care of their needs and demands.
The BJP is only trying to score political brownie points,' Bandopadhyay told a Bengali news channel.
BJP national general secretary and its Bengal minder Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed that the Mamata Banerjee government is so arrogant that it has failed to listen to the pleas of the para-teachers.
'A para-teacher has died, thousands are on strike. But the Mamata Banerjee government is completely silent on the issue. Shame on it,' Vijayvargiya said.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the state government is not keen on increasing salaries of para-teachers but it has money to conduct food festivals.
State Governor Dhankhar, who has been at loggerheads with the state government on a host of issues, appealed to all sides concerned to initiate a dialogue to resolve the issue.
'@MamataOfficial. I appeal (to) all sides for dialogue at the highest level as over 1000 para-teachers are on a sit-in since November 11 and 37 of them are on an indefinite fast from Friday,' he tweeted.
Referring to the death of para-teacher Revati Raut in West Midnapore district, Dhankhar tweeted, 'Reported death of Revati Raut, in West Midnapore and illness of others worrisome.' BJP MP Locket Chatterjee also told a news channel that there has been no word from the state government about ways to address their demands for a hike in salary and pay parity with Group D employees.
Para-teachers at primary schools and high schools are paid a monthly salary of Rs 10,000 and Rs 13,000 respectively and are demanding that it be raised to Rs 22,000-25,000.
State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee had earlier said the para-teachers should come for talks with the government.
Police had resorted to lathi-charge on agitating para-teachers at Kalyani in Nadia district in August injuring several of them.
Following this, 10 personalities of the state, including filmmaker Aparna Sen had written an open letter to the chief minister urging her to resolve the agitation in a democratic manner. PTI SUS JTR ACB PNT NN NN