Mumbai: I’ve met many positive people in life, that is why I am not thinking negatively,” says Shilpa Sonawane as Tuesday becomes the 16th day of her indefinite hunger strike. The state, though, is refusing to entertain her demand.
She is fighting for her appointment and that of 65 others as English lecturers in government polytechnics of the state. These candidates had been recommended by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) in 2014 for the jobs.
While the government says that it is following court orders to regularise contract faculty and that it cannot help these candidates, the candidates say the state is misinterpreting the court order. “The order had said that the regularization of contract faculty will not affect future MPSC recruits,” they say.
From Lasurne, a little-known village in Indapur taluk of Pune district, the 28-year old is the second of four siblings. Her family has neither land nor house of their own. Her father – a non-metric is ailing, her mother is a homemaker. Though they did not study much themselves, they made sure their children are well-educated.
“I had not told them I would be doing this. They came to know only two to three days before I started it,” she said. Though initially apprehensive, they let her go ahead with it. “I told them that they have done their duty of educating me and that I needed to fight for my future,” she said.
A private polytechnic in Ahmednagar, where she was teaching, refused to continue her service after she got MPSC recommendation. “I thought the MPSC recommendation will help in my resume. But it backfired,” said Shilpa. She did not get an interview call from any place she applied to.
While the government says there are no vacancies for the jobs, the candidates say that as per student-teacher ratio norms, there is need for 79 faculties.
She started thinking of going on the hunger strike last September itself. “We had met government officials and politicians for help, but there was no use. Our case which was being heard in the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal, Nagpur was proceeding at a snail’s pace. It was then that I thought of going on this hunger strike,” she said.
“I thought it is my job and I will have to fight for it,” she says. “Lately we had also started feeling that our advocate was hand-in-glove with the government,” she added.
At any point of time though, over past few days there have been not more than 20 candidates in support. Most of them being from remote parts of the state, cannot take leave from contract jobs they are in to be present.
While over the days several MLAs, labour unions and the media have taken interest in their issue, the government response does not seem hopeful. In their recent meeting with the education minister Vinod Tawde last week, he told her friends not to get her the next time they come to meet.
She has been experiencing strained vision, weakness and loss of appetite, she says. “I am not thinking of the consequences. If I do that, I will not be able to pursue this. As long as my body supports me, I will go on,” she said.
“Lot of us are in bad situations because of not getting the appointment, but we don’t have what she has in her has to do something like this – determination,” said Govind Waghmare, a fellow candidate.