West Bengal teachers oppose new law on recruits’ antecedents, reproductive health

“It violates one’s right to privacy and the right over one’s own body,” they say

Teachers in West Bengal are questioning a new law that will subject fresh recruits in all State government-aided colleges to police verification and also a medical examination assessing, among other things, the reproductive health of female candidates.

There are nearly 600 universities and colleges across West Bengal that are State government-aided and critics say that the new law — which requires applicants to specify whether they were originally a resident of Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal — was totally unnecessary at a time when the country was witnessing anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests.

“We suspect this to be a roundabout way of implementing the CAA, even though on the face of it Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is opposed to CAA. Or else, why do they want to know whether a candidate originally hailed from Pakistan or Bangladesh? As for police verification, it only makes candidates vulnerable to political victimisation. And what is the point of such an elaborate medical check-up? Are the candidates applying for the Army? We strongly oppose this law,” Kesab Bhattacharya, general secretary of West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association, told The Hindu.

The notification, issued on February 24, says: “Every [State government-aided] university or college shall take immediate steps to have done all procedural formalities regarding police verification and medical examination of the incumbent so appointed. However, confirmation of service shall be withheld till receipt of report of police verification and medical examination even after completion of usual period of probation.”

For male candidates, the medical examination will determine, among other things, the girth of their chest, and for females, it will evaluate the functioning of ovaries and uterus.

“This is unprecedented and deplorable. It violates one’s right to privacy and the right over one’s own body. It will discriminate against pregnant women and the transgender community. The whole thing is shocking, to say the least, and seems to have sinister motives,” said Ishita Mukherjee, a professor of economics at the University of Calcutta and also the president of the teachers’ association there.

A section of teachers that supports Ms. Banerjee says such regulations were already in place in government colleges and the only thing new is that they have been extended to government-aided colleges. “The number of government colleges is very less, that is why [such regulations] escaped attention and no one talked about them, but now that government-aided institutions have also been brought under the law, people are making noise,” said Sujoy Ghosh, spokesman of West Bengal College and University Professors’ Association.

“The [West Bengal] Education Minister [Partha Chatterjee] has already said that he was open to discussion with any group that had problems with certain clauses of the law. We fully support his statement,” said Mr. Ghosh.

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