Dharna by guest faculty in Madhya Pradesh enters 29th day

Protesters demand regularisation of jobs, some of which they have held for several years

Besides teaching Hindi, Shaheen Khan, removed recently as a guest faculty member at a college in Katni district, for 15 years mentored students with their career goals, even lent them emotional support. However, never did she imagine that despite having a PhD and qualifying in the National Eligibility Test and State Eligibility Test, her own future would look so bleak.

“Should we focus on our own future or that of our children?” wonders Ms. Khan, the single mother of a daughter, a BSc student, and a son, in Class 12. Not paid a salary for six months, she has been left to grapple with the payment of ₹8,000 as house rent every month, besides accruing debts of ₹2 lakh.

Facing removal

The MPPSC has made 3,418 appointments against regular posts, both vacant and occupied by 2,300 guest faculty members, who were removed as a result. Another 2,800 guest faculty members, still on the job, fear more permanent appointments that may take their jobs.

Although the State government has provided them with an edge in securing a regular job, even assured them of an appointment — though ad hoc still — elsewhere, the former guest faculty members, who earned ₹1,500 a day, are demanding regularisation. The last such appointments (via regularisation) took place in 2007, and prior to that in 1993, sources in the Higher Education Department said.

Congress manifesto

As the dharna in Bhopal entered the 29th day on Tuesday, Devraj Singh, who taught in the Vidisha district, called upon Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party to keep its election promise.

“We will create a policy to regularise guest faculty members according to the roster. In case they are not selected by the MPPSC, they will not be removed,” reads section 17.22 of the party’s manifesto for the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election in November 2018.

During a public meeting in Indore in October 2018, when a guest professor explained his plight, Mr. Gandhi said, “The party will attempt to remove this feeling. The manifesto is not of the party, but yours.” Back then, Kamal Nath, now Chief Minister, had asserted, “The party does not believe in the tradition of guests and contracts. And this is about justice. Just wait for some days, and you won’t complain any more.”

Long march

Around 1,200 former guest professors marched 170 km from Pipariya, Hoshangabad district to Bhopal, where they launched the dharna. Tonsuring oneself, a signature campaign using blood, poster-making, and staging funeral processions for government orders, have characterised the protests.

While Ms. Khan has not received a “fallen out” letter, most, including Saraswati Pandey, 45, can use it to seek appointments at other colleges having vacant posts based on merit, according to a policy promulgated on December 17.

Though Ms. Pandey, who taught music for 20 years, with seven of them as a guest faculty member, was removed, her husband, Ashok Kumar Sharma, a geography professor, has remained a guest faculty member for 17 years now.

“I will lose my job the moment they appoint a permanent professor on my post,” said Mr. Sharma, who has two sons, aged 18 and 12. “We will never want our children to become professors.”

Meanwhile, Anand Singh Chauhan, who taught in the Dhar district and has been participating in the protests since December 2, lost his job as he had been absent from work for more than 15 days consecutively. “Guest faculty are made to do menial tasks too as they continue working as long as the Principal wants, and they often work for longer hours than the permanent staff,” he said.

V.K. Gupta, a Physics guest faculty in Rajgarh district, said that while five of his colleagues were removed, four, including he, had remained. “There is no place left to sit in the staff room as our seats are now occupied by those who cleared the the MPPSC exam. They don’t even talk to us.”

‘Filling regular posts’

D.P. Ahuja, Higher Education Commissioner, told The Hindu, “The guests [guest faculty members] were appointed in a temporary arrangement on the posts, and in the next three years, we plan to fill all the regular posts.”

Stating that the government was not aiming at regularising all the guest faculty members through a “backdoor channel”, he said, “They can have a maximum benefit of 20 marks in regular appointments and there is no age bar for them in taking the examination.”

Though the government wants to consider only “fallen out” guests for the remaining posts until permanent appointments are made, the Indore Bench of the High Court in an interim order had it opened for all candidates. The government intends to move the court against the order.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:30:33 AM |

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