Indian teachers are continuing their long fight against the scourge of temporary contracts. This time it was teachers in the Punjab region, who had had their appeals against dismissal turned down by the high court.

Altogether 4060 contract teachers in the area have been declared surplus to requirements, even though they were carrying heavy workloads. The teachers are accusing local officials of submitting false information to the court. The teachers have been protesting for days about the sackings, with hundreds marching on the residence of a chief political adviser yesterday.

They have received support from parents and students - some of whom have staged demonstrations of their own in support of the teachers, and demanding that the government reinstate them. In one case, Surinder, a villager, said the school did not have a maths teacher earlier, but ever since the contract teacher arrived, the school’s results improved. “Now, the department has issued a notice to remove this teacher. We will not tolerate this at any cost,” Surinder said.

The teachers say that they are determined to carry on the fight, even at the cost of their lives. Tragically one young teacher was admitted to hospital and died shortly afterwards, after suffering a heart attack, apparently brought on by the shock of hearing that contract teachers' contracts would be terminated.

The action in Punjab has been going on at the same time as a massive strike in Bihar of contract teachers and follows similar strikes in many parts of the country. The failure to appoint teachers in India is a scandal, especially given the state's constitutional commitment to free education for all. The recent, much vaunted Right To Education act, further entrenches the problem, by enshrining private schooling as part of the answer to getting the millions of child labourers and low income children into school. Moreover if teachers are appointed to public schools, more often than not they are given temporary contracts, which leave them no employment rights, no job security and an income which can be as little as a quarter of the small amount that regular teachers receive.