New Delhi: In a major departure from past practice, the Arvind Kejriwal government had made it mandatory for a large number of teachers and education department officials to attend its swearing in ceremony at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday. A notice issued by the Directorate of Education had informed all those directed to attend that their attendance will also be marked at the venue.
After receiving criticism, the department issued a fresh notice on Saturday evening, saying that attendance was not mandatory for the educational officials and the notice should be treated as ‘invitational’. It also said that no attendance will be taken at the gates.
As many teachers and opposition parties decried the mandatory attendance as amounting to “misuse of official machinery”, deputy chief minister and AAP leader Manish Sisodia had earlier hit back saying “they do not know how to respect teachers, all the people have appreciated the work done by teachers (in the just concluded elections).”
‘Media should not raise such issues’
Seeking to divert the attention away from the concerns, Sisodia had said: “A lot of teachers want to come with enthusiasm. AAP respects teachers and that is why they have been invited.”
He also had a word of advice for the media: “You are such big television channels, newspapers, why do you raise such issues. It is not right if you will give so much importance to such small issues.”
‘First time that attendance of government teachers, officials made mandatory’
A Delhi government teacher The Wire spoke to said, “This is the first time that teachers have been asked to compulsorily be present for what is essentially a party event. If Arvind Kejriwal is extending an invitation to the people of Delhi to attend the oath ceremony, then it is clearly voluntary for them to attend or not. Then how can such attendance be made mandatory?”
The circular, issued on February 14, stated that all officers of DoE; faculties of District Institute for Education and Training (DIET) and State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT); head of school of each government school along with 20 teachers (regular/guest), including vice-principal, Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum (EMC) Coordinators, Happiness Coordinators and Teacher Development Coordinators (TDCs) and all mentor teachers, have been invited to attend.
Government changes stance on attendance
To ensure the presence of these officials and teachers, the first circular had stated that their attendance will be marked at the gates of Ramlila Maidan. “The attendance of officers/officials of DoE/ DIET District Institute for Education and Training/SCERT State Council of Educational Research and Training will be compiled at entry gate,” it stated.
For proper compliance of the directions, the circular also stated that all head of schools will prepare their list of attendees (HOS & 20 teachers) and will submit the same to concerned Deputy Director Education (District) in advance by 5 p.m. on February 15. “Apart from this, all HOSs will also produce a copy of same list to the concerned Officer-in-Charge for attendance at entry gate while entering in Ramlila Maidan on 16th February, 2020,” the note added.
The second circular, though, removed this clause. “…it is clarified that the aforementioned communication is ‘Invitational’ in nature. Therefore no attendance will be taken/compiled at entry gates.”
Congress, BJP slam initial move
Reacting to the note, Congress spokesperson Mukesh Sharma had criticised the mandatory attendance and tweeted that it was a means of gathering a crowd by “misusing power”. He also quipped that it was a “new model of swearing ceremony.”
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor also questioned the move saying where was the need to issue the decree to 30,000 teachers to attend the Ramlila event when AAP claims to have such huge public support.
Sisodia responded to these charges saying that the party has extended invitations to all categories of people including farmers, women, construction and anganwadi workers and doorstep delivery. “The formation of this government is a dream coming true. All those who will build the Delhi of the future have been invited for the event. With them we have taken Delhi forward, with them we will continue to take it forward.”
Note: This article was originally published on February 15, 2020 at 2:30 pm and republished on February 16, 2020 at 9:40 am with the update that attendance would not be marked at the swearing-in.