KOLKATA: Over 450 successful candidates in West Bengal's School Service Commission (SSC) examination have been sitting on an indefinite hunger strike since February 28, in front of the Kolkata Press Club on Mayo Road. They took the SSC exams between 2013 and 2017, qualified, but remain on the waiting list for recruitment despite the numerous vacant seats across schools in West Bengal. They are demanding that teachers be recruited to these posts, or they will continue their agitation until their demands are "adequately addressed" by the state government.

They are also urging the Trinamool Congress government to publish the full list of candidates who qualified in the SSC examination, along with details of the marks they obtained, and to detail the exact number of teaching vacancies in state-run schools.

“Over 5,000 candidates are waiting to be recruited since 2014. They have been holding regular protest demonstrations, demanding that the vacant seats be filled. However, the government has paid no heed to their demands,” said Chandan Dalai, a protestor from Paschim Medinipur.

Nearly 80 agitators have fallen ill, two pregnant women suffered a miscarriage and four more persons were infected by dengue during the hunger strike so far, the candidate schoolteachers claimed.

"Today is the 28th day of our agitation. I qualified in the SSC exam in 2016 in both the written test and the interview, but haven't received any recruitment call so far. We want recruitment to start immediately," said Soma Pramanik, a protestor from Purba Burdwan.

Agitating candidates also demand that the merit list published by the state government should mention the academic score and examination score of each, and the list of vacancies in different schools till 15 days prior to their interview, should be updated and published.

The education minister in the West Bengal government, Partha Chatterjee, met the agitating candidates earlier this month but failed to give them any assurance of appointment. Chatterjee has already held three meetings with agitators and said that the government's response would be “processed” within 15 days. However, the agitators have yet to receive any written assurance from the government.

As the election nears, many leaders from opposition political parties including the CPI-M’s Biman Bose, Shyamal Chakraborty, Sujan Chakraborty and Mohammed Salim, the BJP's Rahul Sinha and former Trinamool student union leader turned BJP member Shankudeb Panda have already met the protesters and expressed solidarity with them. Former teachers, professors and common citizens also urged the state government to look into the issue.

“We have come here to be with them and express our solidarity. We support their demands. Hope that the Education Department would come to some conclusion by tonight,” said Sanjib Banerjee of the BSNL Ex-Employees Association, Kolkata.

Police have reportedly threatened the protesters with forcible eviction. Himanshu Makur, a protestor from Bankura said, “We want the chief minister's intervention in this matter, otherwise we will continue this strike until the government accepts our demands.”

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee visited the protesters yesterday and said the government couldn't act now due to the impending Lok Sabha election. They assured them that they would take a decision once the election is over.