Harrowing time for them following cases of killings, abductions and extortion

Besides the loss of several lives and the social unrest, another crucial sector that has fallen victim to the ongoing skirmishes between the security forces and Maoists in the three south-western districts of West Bengal, commonly known as Jangalmahal, is the education system.

Apart from the loss of study hours of students in the schools – due to bandhs and blockades and security forces occupying the schools for setting up camps – teachers are facing a tough time in discharging duty in the region following multiple cases of killings, abductions and extortion by the Maoists.

The latest incident is the abduction of school headmaster Ranjit Duley by the militant wing of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee from Sarulia village in Bankura district on March 5.

According to Utpal Ray, secretary of the All Bengal Teachers' Association, 18 primary school teachers and five secondary school teachers were killed by the extremists since security operations began in the region last year.

Pointing out that many teachers had to stop going to their workplaces or simply flee from their houses, Mr. Ray said: “A section of the teachers in the region are scared to go to schools. Neither do they feel safe while travelling long distances while going to the schools nor are they safe in the schools since more than once, teachers have been shot dead or abducted in front of the students.”

As a result the students are suffering and the education system has been affected.

Easy targets

Extorting money from government servants has always been a vital source of funding for the Maoists and teachers are easy targets. The teachers are threatened with life unless they pay up the amount dictated at the beginning of every month.

The situation has taken a somewhat positive turn following the successful conduct of the Madhyamik examinations even though there was apprehension of possible disruption, he claimed.

Special security arrangements were being made for the students and examiners in the districts. Special buses with security cover were being run for them.

“The teachers have started regaining confidence after the Madhyamik and with the initiation of the joint security operations, people are hoping that the situation looks up soon,” Mr. Ray said.