'Spit' teacher faces protest

Siliguri, Feb.1: A section of primary school teachers today protested when deputy mayor Ranjan Silsharma, who had spat on the district inspector of schools in 2009, was asked to join state ministers Bratya Basu and Gautam Deb on stage during a workshop at North Bengal University.

The daylong workshop for 1,200 teachers was organised by the District Primary School Council (DPSC) and the West Bengal Board of Primary Education at Vidyasagar Mancha.

Trouble started when dignitaries were being felicitated by the organisers.

When Silsharma, who also looks after the education department in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, was called on stage, 15-20 teachers in the auditorium started shouting.

Silsharma, also the nominee of the DPSC chairman at the district Sarva Siksha Mission, had not reached the venue till that time. He arrived in five minutes and was felicitated.

"Why is he being felicitated? Why is he being given VIP treatment when he is a primary teacher like us? In that case, all of us should have been called on the on stage to sit with the ministers," said a protester.

State higher education minister Bratya Basu and north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb were present at the event.

"He does not deserve to be felicitated as he has brought a bad name to the teaching community through his misdeeds. Moreover, his name was announced before that of Samar Chakraborty, the DPSC chairman. It was incorrect to announce his (Silsharma's) name for felicitation before that of the chairman," said a teacher.

In June 2009, Silsharma, the secretary of the Trinamul-backed Bengal Primary School Teachers' Association, had spat betel-nut juice on district inspector of schools Riazul Islam's face thrice during an argument. The incident took place in front of journalists.

Today, the protesters were pacified by Deb who got off the dais and spoke to them.

Silsharma, however, sat on the stage throughout the event and left after Basu's departure. "I attended the programme as an invitee. I am not in a position to comment as senior dignitaries were present there," he said.

Primary school council sources justified Silsharma's presence on stage.

"He was invited as a guest as he is in charge of the education department at the SMC and the council chairman's nominee in Sarva Siksha Mission," said a source.

The Congress-backed Prathamik Sikshak Kalyan Samiti said it was a "spontaneous reaction" of the teachers.

Basu and Deb did not comment on the incident.

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