PATNA: Schoolteachers in Bihar are up in arms against a government order to monitor the open defecation free (ODF) drive in villages. The order has kicked up a political controversy in the state, with Opposition parties lashing out at the government and even the BJP, which is part of the ruling coalition, expressing its disapproval.
The order, aimed at creating awareness among villagers against open defecation and encouraging them to build toilets at their homes, is reportedly supported by the education department.Bihar Secondary Teachers Association general-secretary Shatrughan Prasad Singh said teachers were already overburdened with various non-teaching works assigned to them. “The teachers’ community absolutely dislikes this latest order. I have written a letter to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar urging him to withdraw the ODF order immediately,” he said.What has riled the teachers is the shaming of villagers caught defecating in the open. In many districts, they have reported refused to comply with the order.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Wednesday waded into the controversy and supported the protesting teachers.
“This is a shocking order. By issuing such an order for teachers, the government is practically making arrangements for them to be thrashed by the villagers. This move could end up getting teachers killed,” he said. “Teachers are respected because they educate young minds. Now, if they go around taking photos of men and women in villages early in the morning and evening.”
Madhepura MP and Jan Adhikar Party chief Pappu Yadav said, “I extend total support to the teachers who are defying this order. Monitoring ODF campaign is not part of their work. They cannot be forced to do this. We will start an agitation if the government does not withdraw this mindless order.”
Defending the move, education minister Krishna Nandan Verma said, “There is nothing wrong in teachers lending a helping hand in the implementation of the ODF scheme. Teachers are respected in the villages and wield influence in society.” But BJP spokesperson Nawal Kishore Yadav claimed that the education department’s order did not have the CM’s consent. “I would like this ODF order to be taken back as soon as possible,” he said.
Schoolteachers in several districts of Bihar have been ordered to monitor the ODF campaign and take photos of people defecating in the open. This is not the first time humiliating tactics have been reportedly adopted by authorities in their zeal to earn brownie points for cleanliness drives. In September, the Ranchi Municipal Corporation had launched ‘Halla Bol Lungi Khol Abhiyan’, forcing offenders to hand over clothes for defecating in the open.