As far as the Maharashtra State Government is concerned, the striking college teachers can take a hike, forget the “pay” part they are agitating for. As a result, the strike enters its seventh day today (July 21), with no end in sight. The government couldn't care less if work, particularly revaluation of papers and such like that directly impacts the future of thousands of students, is affected.
Given the hidebound response of the state government, the teachers have planned a massive morcha tomorrow (July 22) at Nashik, where the state cabinet will meet. But whether their entreaties will move even the “education barons” in the cabinet is a moot point.
The teachers have stopped work' in response to the state-wide agitation call by MFUCTO demanding implementation of the 6th Pay Commission recommendations. The Federation has submitted a 32-point charter of demands that have already been accepted by the UGC, the apex body that will eventually foot the bill of enhanced salaries and allowances but for some strange reason the state government refuses to accept.
The UGC in its guidelines has informed the state government that it would reduce the quantum of financial support yet minister for higher education Rajesh Tope and his factotum education secretary JS Saharia insist the teachers take a cut in the quantum of allowances awarded by the UGC.
“We have been agitating for the implementation of the recommendations of the pay Commission for quite some time, but the government has failed to take notice," PUTA president Atul Bagul told the media in Pune, adding, “What is the logic behind excluding only the senior college teachers out of the 6th pay panel benefits whereas the same were extended to their junior college counterparts.”
So far, three rounds of talks have been held between the MFUCTO leaders and Rajesh Tope and JS Saharia, on July 15, 16 and 18, but none could lead to a solution
Nothing explains the non-serious approach of Maharashtra minister of higher education Rajesh Tope who is dealing with representatives of the Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (MFUCTO) representing all the college and university teachers in the state.
After inviting the Federation's representative for a meeting on June 18, Tope did the disappearing act and kept the teachers waiting for the whole day in his Mantralaya office. And true to bureaucratic form state education secretary JS Saharia just shrugged his shoulders and informed the senior professors that their demands were “under consideration”.
This cavalier attitude vis-a-vis teachers has become the hallmark of the Ashok Chavan government when it comes to sections of society that do not constitute a vote bank. That's why on the eve of assembly elections giant statues in the Arabian Sea off Marine Drive costing Rs 200 crore (more than what would be spent on teachers if their demands are met) are more important than poorly paid teachers who earn less than HSC pass call centre employees.
Indeed, the entire political class, including the BJP and Shiv Sena, are curiously silent even though they celebrated “Guru Purnima” with much gusto and photo-ops just a fortnight ago on July 7. This displays not just the hypocrisy of our politicians but their cynical and manipulative ways as well.
To demonstrate their resolve, the state's university and colleges teachers under the leadership of MFUCTO have organised a massive morcha tomorrow (July 22) in Nashik where the state Cabinet is supposed to meet to press their case. Now we have to wait to see if the Ashok Chavan government is at all serious about settling the teachers' grievances.