For the past few months, a large number of protests have been going on in Punjab. These include the farmers' protest and the teachers protesting for regularization of jobs as well as against the non-implementation of the 7th pay commission.
The teachers and professors of various colleges in Punjab have been protesting since September against the non-implementation of the 7th pay commission and the de-linking of the University's Grants Commission (UGC) pay scales from the state’s institution of higher learning. Along with that, several groups of part-timers and guest faculty teachers have been protesting against the government’s way of filling up the posts of regular assistant professors.
The government of India had decided, after taking into consideration the recommendations made by the Pay Review Committee (PRC), constituted by the University Grants Commission (UGC), and the decision of the UGC taken at the meeting of the Commission held on 22nd February 2017, to revise the pay scales of teachers in the Higher Educational institutions under the purview of the UGC.
The professors have also expressed their disapproval towards the delinking of the University's Grants Commission (UGC) pay scales from the state’s institutions of higher learning.
Every state and UT other than Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh has implemented the said pay commission. It led to professors across India receiving increased pay, except for those that work under the Punjab, Himachal and Chandigarh government. A state-wide protest under the banner of the Punjab Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (PFUCTO) was organised. The protest started on 5 September 2021. When no action was taken by the government, the teacher’s association implemented a “total education bandh movement” i.e. boycotted all academic work from 1 December 2021. If their demands are not met, the All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO) professors have decided to conduct a pan India protest during its statutory conference from 7 to 9 January 2022.
The Punjab Higher Education Department (PHED) released 1160 posts of assistant professors and librarians on 19 October 2021. The process was last initiated in 2002 but the hiring of the officials was canceled after the state vigilance bureau busted a cash-for-jobs scam that year. Over the following years, it was stalled because the matter was termed as sub-judice.
According to the Hindustan Times, the total sanctioned posts by the PHED were 1,873 out of which 1,292 were vacant. A total of 882 guest faculty and 251 part-time lecturers were hired to assist the 581 regular professors. The government was supposed to regularise these lecturers in 2002 but couldn't because of the reasons mentioned above.
After 19 years of stalling, the government released the posts but decided to make it fair for everyone so they conducted an exam in November 2021 under the UGC. However, this made the part-timers and guest faculty worried about the security of their jobs. To earn the regular post, an individual had to not only clear the exam but also score well so that he/she can make it in the merit list. Part-timers as old as 50 were up against youth fresh out of college.
Some of the professors had already passed the age limit to even apply for the post. However, they were given relaxation under the same, considering that they were already working under the Punjab government. The existing professors were also given grace marks to honor their experience in the field of teaching based on the number of years they have worked under the Punjab government, 1 mark for each year, and a maximum of 5 marks. This aspect, though fair, was challenged in court later.
Concerning the 7th pay commission, the teachers want to be paid as much as their colleagues are being paid in other states. They want the government to invest in its higher education. Due to the education bandh, the education of over 8 lakh students has been compromised to the extent that the semester exams have been postponed.
When it comes to the regular posts advertised, the guest faculty and part-timers fear that they would be let go. Some professors have worked as guest faculty under the government for as long as 15 years only to make an average of Rs.24,000 per month in hopes to be regularised. But now that that is no longer an option, they fear that the government will let them go. While they make this less, a temporary assistant professor marks around Rs. 53,000 and a regular employee that does similar work makes over Rs. 1 lakh per month.
In both those cases, the teachers and professors want to be paid fairly, be valued for the jobs that they do, and for the kind of loyalty they portray for the government. They want to have a sense of security in terms of their jobs, which is essential in every field of employment.
Despite the constant protests, hunger strikes, and cases, the government has not taken any positive action concerning the pay commission which has caused the teachers and professors to become agitated. The officials were supposed to discuss the said issue at the cabinet meeting but it was not brought up. This made the teachers’ associations question the intentions of the government towards the development of the education system and their priorities.
On the other hand, several decisions have been made in the case of regular posts. While some say that it is fair to give everyone the same criteria and platform to earn a regular job, others argue that the part-time and guest faculty professors should get some benefits for the amount of experience they have. The decision to give grace marks to existing professors has been questioned multiple times and because of all the cases, a stay order has been placed on the whole process.
Considering all the facts and figures, it can be brought out that education does not lie at the top of our government’s priority list. From the distribution of funds to the conducting of exams, nothing seems to go according to plan in the majority of the states of our country.
Teachers and professors hold the ability to shape our country’s future and it is important to make these jobs secure because if the “guru” is not valued then people will refrain from coming into the profession.
It is easy to say that people should not look at the money and should rather focus on the kind of job but the reality is that even teachers have responsibilities to look after. As sad as it is, money plays an extremely important role in a person’s life but the question is whether it is more important than education.
The responsibility lies in the hands of the government as much as it does in the hands of the teachers.
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