Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar issued a subtle warning to contractual teachers who were agitating on Thursday demanding regularisation of their jobs and other benefits, asking them to attend the Teachers' Day celebrations at their schools.
The education department recently issued a circular directing the district magistrates to ensure that teachers attend schools on this date to celebrate the Teachers' Day.
"I have no problem with you raising any demand. If you have any, then you should. But while doing so, you must not neglect your duty to educate children," the Chief Minister said while addressing a function in Patna on the occasion of the Teachers' Day.
While Nitish Kumar was addressing a gathering at the function in an auditorium, hundreds of contractual teachers sat on a dharna around 3 kilometres away, where a heavy deployment of police was in place.
Mr Kumar sought to remind the agitating contractual teachers that it was his government that hiked their meagre stipend to a respectable level.
The chief minister said he would also heed their reasonable demands unlike the opposition which had publicly called the teachers "incompetent".
"Please recall that before we took over in 2005, the Shiksha Mitras (contractual teachers) were getting a paltry sum of Rs 1,500. When we raised it to a respectable level, these very people who did not care for you while being in power, had come out with public statements saying our government was splurging on incompetent teachers," he said.
Mr Kumar said it was he who had stood by their side saying the teachers were not incompetent.
"You should remember that ultimately it is our government which will do something on outstanding demands. So, please do not neglect your duties. Education has been a top priority of our government and the budgetary allocation for it has risen from Rs 4,000 crore to over Rs 32,000 crore during the period that we have been in power," he added.
Mr Kumar also urged teachers and students to draw inspiration from the state''s glorious history.
"I would also want boys and girls to remember that once they complete their education and start building a career, they must not develop a disregard for their parents. This should be a part of your value system. We have made negligence towards the elderly a punishable offence," he said.
Meanwhile, Mrityunjay Pathak who heads the contractual teachers' stir said most of the nearly 4 lakh contractual teachers of the state are boycotting work on Thursday and demonstrations are being staged across Bihar.
He claimed that the administration declined their request to hold the demonstration at the sprawling Gandhi Maidan out of fear that the magnitude of our agitation would get highlighted.
"We are not going to be cowed down by the threats of the administration and we shall fight till our demands are met," Mr Pathak said.