FROM CHADHA TO MHRD
THE SLIP BETWEEN THE CUP & THE LIP
Thomas Joseph, President, AIFUCTO
The announcement made by Smt.D.Purandeswari, Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the Lok Sabha on the 16th of December, regarding Revision of Pay Scales of Teachers in Universities and Colleges, is a far cry from the recommendations of the UGC Pay Review Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. G.K. Chadha. It is totally at variance with the resolution on the pay revision adopted by the National Executive Council of the All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organizations (AIFUCTO), which was submitted to the Chadha Committee on 15-4-2008. It has also failed to accommodate most of the post-Chadda charter of demands highlighted through the Movement Resolution adopted at the National Conference of AIFUCTO held at Bangalore from 17 to 19th October. In the result, the status and promotional prospects of teachers have been substantially downgraded and financial benefits considerably reduced vis-à-vis Chadda Committee recommendations. The prospects of uniform and simultaneous implementation of the package through out the country have suffered even more.
AIFUCTO had enunciated the following six principles for the formulation of the proposals for the VI UGC pay review of University and college teachers in its submission made to the Chadha Committee:
1) Parity of college and university teachers with at least Group A Officers
2) Incentive for contribution to teaching and extension on par with research
3) Resolving the anomalies in the V Pay revision
4) Implementation of new pay package w.e.f 1.1.2006
5) 100% Central assistance for the implementation of the revised pay package
6) Mandatory, uniform and simultaneous implementation of the new package
Though Chadha Committee had not fully accommodated the wishlist of AIFUCTO, it had made an honest attempt for substantial compliance with the demands raised by the apex organization of college and university teachers. AIFUCTO had taken note of the positive recommendations and complimented the Chadda Committee through the Movement Resolution adopted at its National Conference, which states as follows:
"The General Council of AIFUCTO places on record its appreciation for the hard work put in by the PRC, especially by Chairman Prof.G.K.Chadha, for submitting its recommendation on the entire pay package from 1.1.2006 and incorporating the provision for 100% central financial assistance for the first 5 years and 50% for the next five for the effective implementation of the scheme. AIFUCTO is also in general agreement with the efforts taken by the PRC to link the pay review with the requirement of promotion of the quality of education in Universities and Colleges, by attracting young men and women to the profession through a scheme of special incentives and retaining experienced teachers in the stream by advancing the age of superannuation and by providing new avenues for their career advancement. AIFUCTO also appreciates the concern of PRC for resolving the anomalies in the implementation of V Pay review Report, which has been the cause of considerable heart burn among a large number of teachers with a long tenure of service".
The recommendations on the higher grade pay for teachers vis-a-vis civil service officers and the special academic allowance had come in for applause from the academic fraternity. The recommendation for the creation of new posts of Senior Associate Professor, Senior Professor and Professor of Eminence had, besides accommodating to some extent the long-standing demand of AIFUCTO for third promotion, also provided new avenues of career advancement for talented and hardworking teachers. These recommendations would have helped improve the quality of instruction in universities and colleges, had they been implemented in toto.
However, AIFUCTO had also taken note of several lapses on the part of the Pay Review Committee, which lead to its framing a 17- point charter of demands, seeking modifications in the recommendations in such a way as would make the proposals more inclusive. Following were the demands:
1) Modification in the provision for CAS to Senior Professor.
2) Modification in the provision for CAS to Senior Associate Professor
3) Greater clarity in the recommendation for CAS from 1.1.1996
4) Parity for librarians and DPEs with teachers
5) Inclusion of Associate Professor in Pay Band Four
6) Introduction of Professorship in undergraduate colleges
7) Central assistance to the States in respect of retired teachers
8) Continuance of GPF, Gratuity and Pension for all teachers
9) U G C Scales for all regular teachers with/without NET/SLET
10) Appropriate scales for Tutors/Demonstrators
11) Suitable scale for Part-time teachers
12) Re-designation of librarians and DPEs as teachers
13) The benefit of 4% increment to all teachers
14) Clarity on increment to CAS Readers
15) Pay fixation on the basis of pre-revised scales to Direct Recruits
16) Central assistance for academic allowance
17) Incorporation of PRC proposals in UGC regulations
The MHRD package has only taken into account three of AIFUCTO's seventeen demands by inclusion of Associate Professor in Pay Band Four, by relaxing minimum qualification for moving to Associate Professor and by the introduction of Professorship in undergraduate departments. The rest have simply been ignored. Even the minimal concessions have come at a heavy price. The three new designations proposed by PRC have been scrapped. The number of years required for promotion to Associate Professor (equivalent of Reader) have been increased from existing 9 with PhD, 10 with MPhil and 11 years without MPhil/ Phd to 12, 13 and 14 years respectively. CAS promotions have been reduced from existing two to one. While teachers could move from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer and Selection Grade Lecturer as a matter of routine in the Vth UGC package, hurdles have now been put in the form of a rigorous selection process to move from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor. The details of the selection process are yet to be spelt out. But it is almost certain that the process would, in actual practice, involve conformity and obedience to the powers that be, compromising academic autonomy and dignity of the professorate. It is strange that even a Selection Grade Lecturer/Reader will now have to go through the selection process to move to the post of Associate Professor. As a matter of fact, the Associate Professor in the new scale is only the equivalent of the Selection Grade Lecturer/Reader in the old scale. In essence, a Selection Grade Lecturer/Reader would stagnate at the second stage in the ladder of promotion even when he /she is "promoted" to the post of Associate Professor. The only difference would be the grandiose designation he/she acquires in the process. The credibility gap in the claim that this is an achievement of sorts is of Himalayan proportions.
The downgrading of the professorate, which has been effected by MHRD, does not end here; it only begins with it. The higher grade pay recommended by Chadda Committee to the posts of Assistant Professor and Professor have been pruned. The apparent increase in the grade pay of the Associate Professor comes at the cost of the new post of Senior Associate Professor. The advance increments for in-service MPhil have been reduced from two to one. The increment proposed for NET has been abolished. Whether the academic allowance recommended would be sanctioned is yet to be seen.
The irony of the concluding words of the Minister's statement in the Lok Sabha on the revised scales would not be lost on the teachers. She said: "Sir, we have begun a process of restoring the dignity and pride in being associated with the teaching profession. This decision to improve pay and other emoluments and to provide more attractive service conditions to the teachers is only one of the several steps required to attain the broader objective of improving the quality of higher education. This august House would, I hope, agree that this is a significant step towards that goal". Empty rhetoric, despite the decision to cut down the Central assistance to the States to 80% and to limit it to 4 years and three months against 100% for the first five years and 50% for the next five years recommended by Chadha Committee; despite dilution in the Chadha Committee recommendation for the implementation of the scales from 1-1-2006; despite the dilution in the principle of uniform and simultaneous implementation throughout the country by permitting flexibility in the date of implementation of the scales from State to State. Inclusive words do not bring in inclusion. Only inclusive actions do. It is not enough to announce a package for the entire nation. It is also necessary to take the responsibility for financing it, more so in respect of higher education , as the responsibility for maintenance of standards in higher education rests with the University Grants Commission(UGC) , which is a Central agency. The rhetoric of the "need to strengthen the quality of higher education in the country" will not cover up the divisive character of the MHRD package, which is a reflection of the indifference of the Central Government to the project of quality education for all.
What is to be done now? The National Executive Council (NEC) of AIFUTO is meeting at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi on the 4th of January to discuss the agenda for future action. The attempt will be to create a broad platform for a national struggle in which all teachers could join, irrespective of their organizational affiliations. AIFUCTO realizes that the issues at stake are larger than that of pay scales and promotions of teachers. The linkages between the project of inclusive and qualitative higher education and inclusive national development need to be recognized. The struggle for inclusive development has to be fought on an inclusive platform. The symbolism of the place and the time of AIFUCTO's meeting should not be missed. The NEC meets at Gandhi Peace Foundation. Gandhi's struggle was long and arduous. But it brought to us freedom with dignity. Teachers shall have to struggle hard and struggle for long, with dignity and determination, to wrest their rights. The time is most propitious to begin that long march to victory. The General Elections are due in May. The time to go to the streets to place our grievances and our demands before the people is here and now. Teachers have the right and the duty to approach the people. The fight for the rights and the dignity of the teacher is not merely a fight for higher emoluments for five lakh Assistant Professors, Associate Professors and Professors; it is a fight for the millions of our countrymen as the future of the nation, as famously stated by Kothari, is shaped in the classrooms.