What Happened to the Career Advancement of J&K College Contractual Lecturers?
Professional Disadvantage and Indentured Servitude
By: Dr. Muzammil Ahad
The J&K Higher Education Department has been routinely appointing around 2300 candidates, both male and female, as Lecturers/Teaching Assistants to impart education in Government Degree Colleges of J&K. Appointed through proper procedure; this mechanism is in force since decades in J&K Higher Education Department. However, the nomenclature underwent changes at the discretion of arbitrary decisions and orders of academic bosses at the helm of affairs.This teaching staff now termed as Academic Arrangement Lecturers and Teaching Assistants used earlier to be designated as ad-hoc appointees and later Contractual lecturerson a stable fixed tenure and subsequently regularised after completing the tenure.
In 2010, an act was passed to continue the contractual employees who have completed 07 years in any department. The status and nomenclature of the lecturers was changed to Academic Arrangementdeliberately to deny the same rights for them denying their basic rights guaranteed under the ambit our constitution. Although the nomenclature was changed many times, however, the denomination remained same. The Lecturers and Teaching Assistants have been workingin addition to the permanent faculty and discharging the duties of teaching, research, conducting &invigilating exams, management of colleges etc.
Interestingly, these lecturers are also graduated from same higher education system through which permanent faculties have pursued their education. One fails to understand why the permanent faculties are making the issue Academic Arrangement teaching staff versus them. On one side the requirement of eligibilities and qualification have changed over period of time but unfortunately on other side the right of career advancement was snatched from these lecturers.
The changing nomenclature was not pursued for anything good but to keep these exploited teaching staff at bay and away from demanding right of CAS (Career Advancement Sceme) and professional advantages. Being a young nation and evolving society it is very much obvious that we will have to face several predicaments as long as different classes and sections of society are empowered. Therefore, we need to address these predicaments with open mind and common sense through democratic maxims of reciprocity, reconciliation and mediation to fulfil the requirement of utilitarian and meet principles of moral justice.
The arbitrariness in decision making and policy formulation in the absence of a broad based consensus brought this teaching faculty into the situation reeled down by code of brutal justice. In an conflict ridden society the socio-political arrangements should be revisited every now and then to rectify injustices in society rather than stick to orthodoxy and undue biases. The fate of hundreds and thousands of neo-middle class people is decided over the dinners in the kitchen-lobbies of power wielding families, rather than principally taking aggrieved and affected people on board.
The merit and competition should have been working on democratic maxims and open up equal opportunity for all to showcase their contributions to advance in career and progress in life. Unfortunately, the orthodoxy of rules and institutions pursuing brutal justice while preserving status quo privileges for power wielders and done injustices to new generation neo-middle class. In the code of brutal justice the working experiences and contributions of Lecturers/Teaching Assistantsare wasted and remained unacknowledged to left them deprived and professionally disadvantaged. The set-up of rules and regulations governing the services of Lecturers reminds one about indentured servitude. The indenturedservitude practised by colonial masters and feudal lords.
An unequal bond or agreement got signed by compulsion under norms of inflicted scarcity and insufficiency to legally deny them any legitimate life of dignity and professional advantages. Lecturers having meagre remuneration, no professional stability, no dignity and professional advantage still could make best contribution to teaching, academics and research of this nation. They have served at far-flung areas of Gurez, Doda, Kishtwar etc. they are not given any induction programme, refresher programme or any training workshop. The author has personally requested to coordinators of a faculty development program at IIPA to organise training workshops for these abandoned faculties. Author has also personally requested the academic bosses in Kashmir for conducting training programs for contractual lecturers but in return received a sarcastic laugh without any reasonable explanation.
If the lecturer would go for any workshop or conference voluntarily, he is not allowed and his salaries are deducted or leave is rejected. The worth of a lecturer is reduced to a bonded indentured slave. Bearing with such a professional disadvantage,under such disgraced and demoralised conditions the lecturers are squeezed of all enthusiasm and energy over a period of time. In spite of recognizing their contribution, they are rather degraded and looked down as deadwood, an act of covering up the unjust and undemocratic mechanism they are treated with.
But, dear academic bosses, the matter of fact is that, these Lecturers/Teaching Assistants are not deadwood but you have been stealing life of this unlucky lot. Every time new batch of highly qualified, energetic and enthusiastic youth are lured to this exploitative system, however, they being unawareabout reality this disgraceful and disdainful professional disadvantage later meet the same end over a period of time as experienced by those already facing the disgrace. Lecturer positions, which virtually are temporary positions in nature have been in existence from last thirty years in reality and are required unavoidably in higher education future as well, still lecturers are victims of use and throw policy. Every effort is made to deny them professional advantages, for the same purpose recently the indiscriminate policy in 2020 is notified to reduce the status of lecturers to Guest Faculty and Need Based staff under guidelines 58 of JK HED which is a further demoralisation and deprivation of their legitimate basic rights.
Why is it easy to demoralise and deprive them? One asks a question to himself. The comprehensive understanding for the same lies in rather another question, who are these contractual lecturers? Although they are the brain children of these professors conceived in higher education system. But, the treatment is meted out with us as if they are nonexistent.
The Contractual lecturers belong to the ‘neo-middle class’ (Rahul Verma&AnkitaBathood. Will class replace caste in India, CPR Delhi) and are first generation educated from these families. It is a rising new inspirational class with its values and expectations. Suppressing the same is deprivation and demoralisation against the successive generations of this neo-middle class. The sheer denial of equal citizenry rights against them in a conflict ridden society will create serious consequences for nation and state while power elite’s lineages are raising fortunes out of set rules, regulations and institutions. Over a period of last couple of decades the rural poor class of society through harsh struggles pursued training and education in multiple fields. Thus they became eligible for different jobs and professions. They are excelling and doing well in different fields.
However, when it comes to public service positions the statuesque or change of rules and regulation is tampered to perpetuate the grip and hold of upper class over these positions. As long as the education was privileged to upper class families the ad-hoc and contractual faculties were ensured the regularisation after completing a fixed tenure. The neo-middle class is lacking any access and means to influence the political power and decision making. The rules of game are in hands of traditional upper class. This might be the reason that rules are arbitrarily tampered to deprive lecturers of their legitimate claims. Orthodox reasons and self-aggrandising tactics are at work to deny and deprive them of their rights. Here comes the role of PSC and set guidelines.
The role of the said institution and rules is to advance the career and scrutinise the quality of faculties. Their fore, career advancement should have been the opportunity given to lecturers on basis of their quality and performance appraisal to stand on requirement of utilitarian and principles of moral justices. Unfortunately, the above mentioned institution became excuse and put as building block against the recognition of our contributions and our several years of academic and teaching experiences in higher education system. I believe that the academic culture in our higher education is merit oriented where the lecturers are trained enough to meet the requisite qualities of higher education teachers. A lecturer spends 5-10-15 years in higher education system is asked to restart his career again from zero year to be regularised as professor. This is what you are stealing from our life.
The merit has become just another form of discrimination and exclusion in the given class and caste hierarchy, where the power yielding classes are purveyors of privileged lineage (Dipayan Pal. How historical caste privileges become modern day merit, the Indian Express, May 10, 2021). Normalisation of rhetoric through abuse of law and power only built the discourse of governementalisation of civic and political life. It is a situation where state and citizens are polarised apart from each other, evolving in two separate spheres. This govermentalisation is leveraging the families and progeny of power elites at the cost of fractured relations between common citizen and state or nation.The sacred thread of merit works and treats two differently. In favour of power wielders, evaluate and examine till one gets successful. In-case of poor lecturers and neo-middle class, evaluate and examine over the years till one gets failed. The opportunity-of-bliss for Children born with silver spoon and opportunity-of-bane for children without patronage!
The post graduates and researchers are screened and scrutinised in entrance and National Level Tests. They are evaluated and trained while pursuing their research degrees in universities and IITs. After completing the regressive academics they get into the teaching work. After completing the prudential academic course one should not have been locked-in for PSC which is taking years or decades to advertise the posts. Rather periodical scrutiny and performance appraisal to let the lecturers also showcase their skills and contribution for professional advantage. The practice of throwing out experienced lecturers out of system is waste of time, talent, resources and capital.
The above understanding has touched all the dignitaries and professors at helm of affairs. Their fore, several efforts and humble attempts were made towards framing a policy for streamlining the Contractual lecturer. However, any humble attempt is bound to fail when the approval is needed from authorities whose own progeny is shareholder in same society.
It is pertinent to mention here in a recent past the humble effort was made in August 2019. The J&K Department of Higher Education setup a committee headed by Professor (Dr.)IrshadWani Sahib. The committee was assigned to frame policy recommendations for streamlining the contractual Lecturers. The committee recommended that continuing the eligible candidates as Lecturers and Experienced non-eligible faculties as Demonstrators with a qualification advancement option to be raised to the lecturer positions. The demonstrators are experienced faculty who are well acquainted with academic work culture of colleges and could be helpful in multi-tasking activities rather than hiring inexperienced from outside. Committee further suggested to the government that higher education is required to hire the services of Contractual faculties every year. They are important resource in carrying out academic work of department. Weather the Higher Education Department hire them as academic arrangement or guest lecturer the fact of matter is that their services are required in future as well. Therefore, the utility of services should also consider moral justice in their favour. The above policy is already prevalent in medical colleges (SRO 124) and recently the West Bengal Government and many other states also framed similar policy for its disadvantaged guest faculty.
The nature of services, set of regulations and organisational relations have brought the 2300, almost half of the number of faculties in colleges, into occupational locked-in position and organisational stress (Deepa Gosh in International Research Journal of Social Science, Dec., 2010, p.49-59).The author has discussed with Professor and Assistant professor of 12 colleges in Kashmir whose responses highlighted the issues of organisation stress, affecting work culture badly, problems the students face, and vulnerabilities and rights of Lecturers. Changing nomenclatures time and again and sub-human treatment only demonstrates in itself that the lobbies in governmental organisation are on pounce to deprive the neo-middle class educated generations what they deserve legitimately. A person spends his prime youth in pursuing degrees, teaching and research is hired and fired at wish and will when he or she reaches middle age crisis. It is the moment when he or shedoesn’t know another skills or training. He is thrown out as if he/she completes the bonded indentured servitude. No social security, no farewell, no dignity but under sheer disgrace and only personal, psychological and social vulnerability. The contractual faculties are not borrowed slaves. They are qualified and certified from higher education system.
In history, one witnesses the conflicts and battles fought to ameliorate such injustices and discrimination. . In our recent past Shiekh Abdullah sahab started his battle against Dogra Raj to ameliorate the injustices meted out to masses. The rules of the game were changed, when Shiekhsahab obtained MSC and aspired for job, the rules were tampered with to devalue the worth of Shiekhsahab and his MSC. However, in democratic political system the enlightened citizenry supply the demands and feedback to political systems for rectifying the ill will amicably. When the same approach was pursued by the lecturers many times but got disappointed over past several years.
The final jolt came in 2010 when we were singled out from benefits of professional advantages. The lecturers approached the court as any decent citizen would do. The court orders the status quo till the final disposal of our case is decided on professional advantages like any other contractual or daily wager is getting in other departments. The courts disposal is still pending but the self-aggrandisement of bureaucracy has decided the verdict after they made a verbal consensus among themselves for stopping our salaries and belittle our contribution, experiences and degrees. The ‘farmans’ or decries are passed as if they are last Mughals left to prevent their throne from falling into hands of people. It should be clear for new scholars aspiring for teaching in higher education that status quo has not stalled or halted the Assistant professor recruitment. Rather the fact is that 2300 vacancies are always going to remain contractual only.
The recruitment is made only for vacant positions available against the strength of professor position rationalised after their retirement. Recruitment for 2300 Lecturers as Assistant professors is impossible given the cost of salaries incurred on these posts. Hence in the given resources the higher education department should stream line the contractual faculty’s positions for sustainable academics and professional stability. The consolidated work load in higher education is more than enough to absorb the lecturers. Opening new colleges in J&K signifies and substantiates the argument. Department of higher education should also plead for budgetary grants from government to pay the remuneration. The quality education and academics need to quality investment.
Being part of higher education system and academic fraternity,it is recommendation to fallow the suit of west Bengal government where the common sense prevailed in policy making. The guest faculties were offered a reliable tenure of service till age of 65 and monthly basic salary. They also fixed amount of 5 lakh to be paid to them at time of retirement. The management quota faculties in Orissa, contractual faculty in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are also offered professional advantages. Being a part of this republic believing in preamble of constitution the rules regulation must confirm to principles of Justice, Liberty, Equality and fraternity. Their fore, J&K government and ministry of Education, indiashould consider our professional advantage and career advancement. Picking thread from West Bengal policy framework and reconsidering the policy recommendations submitted by committee under Prof. IrshadWani Sahib, it is requested to Government of J&K, administrative Tribunal and Ministry of Education to make joint efforts and appoint a committee to devise policy based on above mentioned frameworks for Contractual Lecturers.
Thank you in anticipation
The writer is Lecturer, Dept. of Higher education, Jammu and Kashmir.