Around 30,000 University and college teachers across Maharashtra have gone on an indefinite 'Cease Work' strike from today demanding implementation of the 6th Pay Commission already accepted by the Manmohan Singh government.
The teachers are also demanding a uniform leave package which was advocated by the UGC and other demands which were due from 5th Pay Commission that were supposed to have been implemented more than 10 years ago!
The teachers have been forced to hold cease work as the promises made in the Maharashtra Legislative Council on June 4 are not being fulfilled, informed secretary of Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers' Organisations (MFUCTO) Prof Tapati Mukhopadhayay. “The metropolis is already on the move and the teachers are determined to get the genuine benefits due to them from the government,” she told the media.
On June 4, Minister for Higher and Technical Education Rajesh Tope had assured in the Legislative Council that the government would implement the 6th Pay Commission recommendations for university and college teachers by mid-July. Nothing of the sort has happened so far.
In fact, the minister has not even replied to MFUCTO's repeated letters demanding implementation of the government's promises in spite of Central financial assistance communicated through directions of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and University Grants Commission to do so and pay 40 per cent of arrears immediately and claim the amount by March 31 earlier this year.
“The strike is to make the government realise that our demands like implementation of 6th Pay Commission, resolving the long-pending demands of the academic community including the problem of National Eligibility Test (NET) and State Eligibility Test (SET) qualification condition wrongly introduced on about 10,000 teachers retrospectively are to be taken seriously by the state,” Federation president Prof CR Sadasivan pointed out.
Prof Sadasivan informed that the Federation sent a series of letters from February 2009, to Maharashtra Minister for Higher and Technical Education Rajesh Tope, the Secretary in the Department JS Saharia, with copies to the Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.
The Federation has sent their letters of Original Movement in April and in June and even gave a call of mass casual leave on July 6 to make the government realise their demands.
“Since there was no response from the government, we have decided to go on strike. But we want to make it clear that we wanted to avoid the indefinite 'cease work' because it will have far-reaching impact on the academic calender and student community when the universities and colleges have begun the academic year 2009-10,” he said, adding, “it is still not late for the government to invite us for debate.”.
It is unfortunate that the Minister has promised the teachers on the floor of the House that he will take up the issue immediately and introduce a Government Resolution, but alleged that the bureaucracy is determined to create obstacles to the process, he added.
However, the smug babus in the Department of Higher and Technical Education said the teachers have been already told that the matter is “under consideration” (as it has been for over a decade.
St Xavier College principal Fr Frazer Mascarenhas said, “If our country has recommended a particular pay scale, I don’t see why a state like Maharashtra should not implement it. If we want to invest in our youth, we need to pay teachers a decent salary. We have education commissions to decide exactly what a decent pay consists of and how much the government should spend on education. Currently, the government is spending a minuscule percentage on education,’’ he pointed out.
This shameful exploitation of teachers is happening in the background of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's tall claims that he wants to make India the next “Knowledge Superpower”. His neo-liberal cohorts in the cabinet and Congress party never cease to parrot the same line. But no one cares to explain why college and school teachers – the core group that imparts knowledge to young, inquisitive minds – are the most poorly paid professionals in India.
My wife has been teaching in a college for 30 long years after finishing her post-graduate studies, MPhil and PhD from prestigious universities. After three decades of dedicated service (she refuses to even consider any “lucrative” offer), her take-home pay is less than Rs 40,000.
This is less than half of what many youngsters – taught by these very poorly-paid teachers - in the services sector earn at the entry level. Indeed, the salaries of teachers are comparable to what HSC pass kids are paid in BPO call centres.
If that is not shameful enough, consider this: The Maharashtra government has virtually frozen recruitment of teachers at the college level. So is there is a need for an additional teacher in any department, new recruits can be hired only on a “clock-hour basis.” This usually translates into hiring a post-graduate @Rs 200 per hour not exceeding 40 hours a month.
This means a highly qualified profession can hope to earn not more than Rs 8000 a month. Plus, there are no statutory benefits like Provident Fund, Pension, Maternity Leave etc. And there is no pay during vacation and on holidays. Colleges in the country normally have only 180 teaching days in a year. So a teacher working on clock-hour basis cannot earn more than Rs 50,000 a year! And the smug babus in the education department say the matter of hiring full-time regular teachers is “under consideration.”
Instead, the government is encouraging colleges to begin self-financing courses, making education a purchasable commodity! These self-financing courses (meaning the government does not pay faculty salaries or for infrastructure) are golden egg laying geese.
Indeed, many colleges have jumped on the moolah-making bandwagon to make a quick buck in the name of providing job-oriented courses like BMM, BBM, and in the sciences which have already come under fire from educators.
How do the colleges make money out of a self-financing course? The first step, of course, is to obtain the University's permission to start the programme which already has the UGC's sanction. If it's an 'established' college, the procedure is perfunctory, to say the least.
The next step is to hire 'faculty'. These are not academics paid UGC grades (upwards of Rs 30,000 per month plus benefits) but 'visiting faculty' who are hired on an hourly basis, normally @ Rs 500 per hour/lecture. Most of these lecturers, who may otherwise be qualified in their respective fields, are normally retired teachers or out-of-work journalists and do not figure on the muster as full-time employees.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Manmohan Singh is trying to build a Knowledge Superpower through the Public-Private Partnership route in which education barons belonging to his party and foreign mercenaries in the guise of educators are being wooed to set up supposedly “world class”, high-priced teaching shops in the country to make India a Knowledge Power.
There could not be a greater hoax and cruel joke being played on the youth of the country.
Roger And Out