A severe shortage of faculty is a problem at IMU

A group of recently-recruited teachers have begun a revolt against the controversy-ridden Indian Maritime University, bringing to light several malpractices at the Central government institute.

When it was founded in 2009, the IMU was setting out to standardise maritime education across the country and provide the shipping sector with skilled manpower. Four years on, the Centrally-governed is clearly short of its goal.

The 30 teachers originally recruited as permanent faculty members in January, have refused to sign a document issued by the IMU that would convert their positions into contract-based ones.

With doctorates from reputed institutions such as Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Indian Institutes of Technology, they came aboard IMU following a recruitment drive spearheaded by then Vice Chancellor Prof. G. Raghuram. The professor however, resigned from the V-C’s post last month after spending barely seven months in office. Sources close to Prof. Raghuram say he was being targeted for recruiting qualified teachers as permanent staff. The professor was not available for comments.

According to faculty members, the University has, since its inception, operated mostly with contract teachers or those paid on an hourly basis. “The contract system helps the management follow a hire-and-fire policy. Teachers are often terminated with extremely short notice periods and never paid promised allowances,” said a faculty member.

The 30 teachers have not been paid their salaries ever since they joined. In February, their appointments were put on hold, following allegations that the V-C had flouted recommended norms in their recruitment.

A committee comprising three officials from the Shipping Department was formed to investigate the matter. The report, which had to be submitted in a month, was never made public. Meanwhile, the faculty members were asked to sign a document accepting contract status and undertaking to work on any IMU campus.

“We have very few teachers in management, nautical sciences and marine engineering. Prof. Raghuram wanted to establish an interdisciplinary university,” said a faculty member, justifying Raghuram’s move.

“The recruitment had also been ratified by the executive committee which had members from the Shipping Ministry,” he added.

“The committee which enquired into the recruitment consisted only of shipping ministry officials. It did not have a single academic,” said another teacher. “Most charges against Prof. Raghuram were trivial, such as conducting interviews through Skype. We had eligible candidates from abroad so the preliminary interviews had to be done online,” she added.

The teachers have written to senior officials at the Shipping Ministry, but have not received a reply as yet.

“Until 2011, our courses were not upgraded. We did not have a registrar or an exam officer in place. Attendance in classes was less than 25 per cent,” said a former IMU faculty member, who works at a deemed maritime university now.

A severe shortage of faculty too, is a problem at IMU. Former faculty member Captain M. A. Pillai said, “Answer sheets of students from affiliated colleges would remain piled up and would be evaluated by visiting faculty in the most random manner.”

Shipping Ministry officials however said the recent recruitments have not been cancelled and a decision will be made once the committee’s report is available. They also denied having issued any instructions asking faculty to accept contract offers.

Even the timetable was not adhered to, till Prof. Raghuram intervened, said students. “Last year, a few of us were made to scrutinise application forms of workers that had applied for jobs,” said a student.

A severe shortage of faculty is a problem at IMU

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