Even though he was only semi-literate, my father (who was a Mukhiya of Badlu Tola, a small panchayat in Bihar) was keen that I study well. He was especially hopeful that I study in Kerala, which he’d heard was highly literate & progressive. So when I cleared the all India test of Sainik school, my father insisted I go to Kerala. That changed my life.
I always dreamt of being on the front page of a newspaper. In school, I particularly enjoyed speaking on stage before the school assembly, & naturally, I developed a keen interest in studying political science. I studied voraciously & became the first professor from my village in 1998. My father was so proud that he specially came to Delhi to celebrate my achievement. But fate had something else in store. He abruptly died of kidney failure on that visit. I was devastated. While still grieving, the entire responsibility of my mother, 7 sisters & 2 brothers fell on my shoulders. So I had to be strong. The next 6-7 years were very difficult for me. I had to make all kinds of sacrifices to ensure they were comfortable. But God willing, I prevailed!
It’s during that difficult time I realised how ad-hoc teachers, many of them in even more desperate situations than I was, are exploited to maintain the status quo. You see, all ad-hocs are on 4-month contracts, which universities insidiously misuse to skimp on salaries & circumvent basic benefits. We couldn’t air our opinions & those who did were summarily dismissed. My activism thus was triggered when the new pension scheme & 6th pay commission were introduced. I felt angry that it compromised the interests of young teachers. They furthered the divide between two classes of teachers. So, I started a movement by asserting that teachers are nation builders & if armed forces were to be exempt from NPS, so should young teachers who play an equally significant role in shaping the destiny of India.
I just couldn’t tolerate the blatant discrimination everyone was mutely witnessing & even party to. I had to speak up! How can India hope to create a conscientious citizenry when it mistreats teachers like this?