The state’s 17 District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs), tasked with training Class XII students as Elementary Teachers Training (ETT) teachers, are now functioning with skeletal staff after the Education Department last week shifted 70 lecturers to senior secondary schools.DIETs have a sanctioned strength of 267 lecturers, but over the years 139 have already been transferred. After the latest order dated August 2, just 58 are left on the rolls.The Central government pays 60 per cent of their budgetary allowance while the Punjab government chips in with the remaining 40 per cent. The State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) is the parent body of DIETs, which were established three decades ago.Teachers’ unions and the Punjab Students Union (PSU) have protested the “arbitrary transfers” by holding a rally in front of the Gurdaspur DIET on Thursday.Secretary (Education) Krishan Kumar could not be contacted, but SCERT Director Inderjeet Singh claimed that lecturers were shifted following a rationalisation policy adopted by the government.“Till yet there was no such policy which meant that multiple lecturers for the same subjects were posted. A separate cadre is being established to run DIETs. Not much should be read in the recent transfers. It is just a matter of time when new teachers will be posted. We are here to strengthen these institutes and not to weaken them,” he said. Unions, however, are not impressed by the line taken by the Director.“No rationalisation policy is being followed. Had this been the case then why was the only mathematics teacher shifted from the Gurdaspur DIET? Likewise, there were two science lecturers and now both have been transferred. So who is going to teach these subjects? If the Director is to be believed, then the government is all set to bring in its favourites as lecturers. The fact that a separate cadre is being established is just a camouflage to adjust its loyalists,” said Germanjit Singh, general secretary, Democratic Mulazim Front (DMF).PSU leader Amar Kranti claimed that a protest is being organised in Gurdaspur on Saturday against the “weakening of DIETs”.