A tale of two protest sites in the middle of a heatwave
By Ayan Samajdar
Around 150 metres away from the Shahid Minar in Kolkata, members of seven different forums have put up tarapaulins to beat the summer heat and protest against the West Bengal government for varying demands that range from more jobs for them to fair employment policies.
The seven forums are Upper Primary, SSC Group C, SSC Group D, 2014 Primary TET, Upper Primary from class 5-8, West Bengal Group D, Physical Education and State Level Selection Test (SLST) forums.
At a time when the rising mercury forced the government to shut schools for a week from Monday and even advance summer vacations, there seems to be no thawing of ties between the government and protesters. The protesters have no intention of ending their stir till their demands are met.
Bengal has been reeling under heatwave conditions with temperatures crossing 400C.
Drenched in sweat, some can be seen lying on the tarpaulins, others keep drinking water while some have covered themselves with a cloth. With most of them unemployed, the anger and frustration is palpable. Around 10 feet away, the organisers have kept two water tanks of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. “The water is too dirty to consume. And, only one of the two water tanks is working,” says one of the protesters. Bikash Roy, a member of the Group D forum said, “It has been 239 days here, but no one came to talk to us from the government.”
A member of the Upper Primary forum, Himanshu Biswas, said, “We have a fund and we bought ropes and tarpaulin with it. The other forums provided us ORS, Glucon-D and water.”
Piyali Pramanik, who is part of the TET forum said the lack of potable water and the harsh weather conditions has led to many protesters even falling sick.
A little more than 160 metres away, at the tent put up by the Joint Forum of State Government Employees, things are a little better. Protesting for a hike in dearness allowance, the forum has been agitating for almost three months. Sitting amidst six coolers and 15 ceiling fans, the members said these arrangements weren’t enough for a crowd their size. Convenor of the Joint Forum of State Government Employees Bhaskar Ghosh said, “We often have to buy ice to add to the water from the tanks set up by KMC as the water is too hot.”