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To ferry AAP workers to Kejriwal event today, Punjab lines up teachers as in-charge of buses

The Punjab government has appointed school teachers as in-charge for buses that will be ferrying the ruling Aam Aadmi Party workers on Wednesday to Amritsar for an event where party national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be the chief guest at the opening of state’s first ‘School of Eminence’. The orders issued by district education officers (DEOs) fly in the face of the claims made by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann that government teachers will only teach and not be assigned any other duty.

The move comes at a time when examinations are being conducted in state-run schools and the education department has ordered that no teacher would get leave from work to prepare their children for exams and should rather focus on the studies of their students.

As per the copies of the orders issued by DEOs in Bathinda, Ludhiana, Moga, Barnala among others, at least 310 teachers — from principals and headmasters to lecturers and others — will be accompanying AAP workers in PRTC buses as “in-charges”. They include 30 teachers from Shahkot, 27 from Barnala, 90 from Moga, 36 from Bathinda and 130 from Ludhiana. Each bus ferrying AAP workers will have one teacher as “in-charge”. They have to ensure that AAP workers are served refreshments and breakfast in time, face no inconvenience while travelling and the publicity banner of “School of Eminence” is displayed on the bus.

In some districts, principals have been appointed as “nodal officers” to ensure that the buses reach the venue on time.

In Ludhiana district, which has 14 assembly segments, each segment has been allotted 10 to 15 teachers as in-charge of each bus. The order further states that a principal has to ensure that each teacher whose name figures in the list, has to fulfill this duty and none should be given any relaxation.

Similarly, in Bathinda,principals have also been appointed as “nodal officers” to ensure teachers under them perform their duty properly as “bus in-charge”.

The Indian Express spoke to 10 such teachers who have assigned the duty of bus in-charge and they said that they weren’t even clear on what exactly their role was in the entire exercise.

“Exams are going on but we have to accompany party workers from each segment to Amritsar. We have just been told that we have to manage the bus during the travel. Ensure that the bus leaves and returns on time, workers get food in time and they don’t face any inconvenience. Are teachers meant for this work in the middle of exams? Since the work is related to the education department, we cannot say no else disciplinary action will be taken against us,” said a teacher from Moga.

Examinations across state began from September 11.

Another teacher from Ludhiana said that when he called the local party worker who was appointed the head by the area MLA, he wasn’t even aware that a teacher will accompany as “in-charge”. “He said that they have already arranged the publicity banner, which as per the order, I had to arrange to display on the bus. We had no issue going to Amritsar had students been taken along but why should we accompany workers of a political party?,” he asked.

Another teacher said that all that he knows was they have to reach the designated starting point by 6am. “I have no idea what exactly we have to do. The arrangements have already been made by the MLAs and their workers while refreshments will be provided by food and civil supplies department,” he said.

“On one hand, Mann saab (CM) says that teachers won’t do any other work other than teaching and on the other hand, we are being asked to accompany party workers that too during exams. We aren’t even sure what our mandate is for tomorrow’s visit. It is nothing more than a show of strength,” said another teacher.

When contacted, Kamal Kishor Yadav, secretary of school education in Punjab, said that he wasn’t aware of teachers being allotted any such duties. “Exams are on and we do not intend to disturb teachers or students for any such programme. In my knowledge, only some teachers from host district have been assigned some duties. The programme will be streamed live for others to watch. We have not even invited district education officers (DEOs),” Yadav said.

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The copies of the letters issued by different districts state that “orders have been issued on the directions of deputy commissioners.”

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, expressing his displeasure on the development, tweeted: “Gross misuse of public exchequer money by @BhagwantMann for promotion of @ArvindKejriwal! DC Faridkot has been instructed to arrange 30 buses from district to ferry @AamAadmiParty workers for rally at Amritsar tomorrow. At this rate, hundreds of buses are being arranged from the entire state. Where’s the BADLAV?”

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A senior education department official added: “Initially, the plan was just to organise the inauguration ceremony of the school campus where Kejriwal was invited but later another political segment was added to it. Now, a rally would also be held after inauguration where new initiatives of education department would be publicised and AAP workers from across the state would be ferried in PRTC and Punjab Roadways buses.”

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