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Guest staff demand regularisation of jobs

Guest faculty members singing ‘bhajans’ during their ongoing strike in Bhopal on Tuesday.

Guest faculty members singing ‘bhajans’ during their ongoing strike in Bhopal on Tuesday.  

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On dharna in Bhopal, they call upon Congress to keep its election promise

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. But never did she imagine that despite having a PhD and qualifying the National Eligibility Test and the State Eligibility Test, her own future could look this bleak.

“Should we focus on our own future or our children’s?” wonders Ms. Khan, a single mother of a daughter, a BSc student, and a son in Class XII. Not paid salary for six months, she is left grappling to pay ₹8,000 as house rent every month, and has even accrued a ₹2-lakh debt.

With the appointment of 3,418 permanent faculty members in government colleges by the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission (MPPSC) last month, around 2,300 guests — assistant professors, librarians and sports officers — faced removal from present postings on December 7, leaving their future uncertain. Although the State government has extended them an edge in securing a regular job, even assured them of an appointment, though ad hoc, still elsewhere, the former guests, who earned ₹1,500 a day, demand regularisation. The last appointments happened in 2007, and before that in 1993.

As the dharna in Bhopal entered the 29th day on Tuesday, Devraj Singh, who taught in Vidisha district, called upon Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the 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 M.P. adhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election in November 2018 reads “...they will not be removed”.

During a public meeting in Indore in October 2018, as 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.”

Kamal Nath, now Chief Minister, had asserted, “The party doesn’t 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.”

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

While Ms. Khan didn’t receive a ‘fallen out’ letter, most, including Saraswati Pandey, 45, can use it to seek appointment 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, seven as a guest faculty member, was removed, her husband, Ashok Kumar Sharma, a geography professor, remains a guest, for 17 years now. There are 2,800 guests who face uncertainty.

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

D.P. Ahuja, Higher Education Commissioner, told The Hindu, “The guests were appointed in a temporary arrangement. 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 guests 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 opened it for all. The government will move the court against the order.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 2:38:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/guest-staff-demand-regularisation-of-jobs/article30507479.ece

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