As if engaging Gujarat government teachers in census data gathering, election duties and promoting health awareness campaigns was not enough, now they have been asked them to help deepen water bodies in the state by offering "Shramdaan" (voluntary manual service).
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled government of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has ordered such teachers to join the month-long campaign to conserve water resources as part of state government's water conservation drive.
The drive is focussed on deepening lakes and ponds, renovating river banks, de-silting reservoirs and other water bodies, and strengthening check dams.
The state government on Gujarat Foundation Day (May 1) launched a water conservation drive -- Sujalam Sufalam Yojana -- spearheaded by the Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpasar Department.
This move was aimed primarily to ensure that the state reeling under potable water crises currently does not face this problem going forward.
While the project is estimated to cost over Rs 450 crore, the government hopes a chip-in of Rs 100 crore from various private, religious and educational institutions.
The government school teachers of Khedbrahma block in Sabarkantha district of north Gujarat were in for a shock when they received an order from the Taluka Primary Education Officer asking them to contribute towards the drive by carrying out "Shramdaan" for deepening of lakes.
Moreover, an order from the Sabarkantha Collector insisted that teachers needed to be present at the site of lake digging between 9.00 a.m and 10.00 a.m and participate in the work.
The Cluster Resource Coordinators or CRCs have been instructed to reach the spot half-an-hour ahead of the schedule and also take photographs of teachers participating in the work and mail the pictures to the Block Resource Coordinators.
"Any type of voluntary service can't be forced upon someone, it has to come by choice. Gujarat has been constantly falling in education among the ranking of states over the last two-and-a-half decades.
"A recent report of the Government of India shows that the state has slipped to 19th or 20th rank. All due to such initiatives of the BJP-ruled government in the state," Manish Doshi, a state Congress spokesperson, said.
The party alleged that forcing teachers to offer "Shramdaan" would only further dent the quality of education in the state as teachers would be out and not in their classrooms.
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