Varsity dues and age norm delinked
The Union human resource development ministry has dropped a key condition for clearing four-year arrears of teachers in colleges and universities run by state governments.
If the Union cabinet clears the proposal, around 4 lakh teachers across the country stand to gain from the ministry’s change of stand.
The HRD ministry will no longer insist that states should enhance the teachers’ retirement age to 65 years if the Centre were to bear most of the arrears burden that was initially estimated at Rs 9,000 crore.
The arrears arose because Delhi had asked the states in 2008 to follow the pay scales that centrally funded institutes introduced in 2008 with retrospective effect from January 1, 2006.
The Centre had said it would bear 80 per cent of the increased arrears for the first four-year period (April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2010), provided the state governments raise the teachers’ superannuation age to 65 years. But many states, including Bengal, have reservations about raising the age.
The Union HRD ministry has now moved a proposal for the consideration of the cabinet, seeking its approval for de-linking the release of assistance to the state governments from the retirement age, sources told The Telegraph.
The decision was taken by the HRD ministry after a committee of secretaries headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth supported the demand of state governments.
“This is a positive development. We expect the cabinet to approve it. If it is turned down, we will launch a hunger strike in Delhi in August,” said Asok Barman, the secretary of the Calcutta-based All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations.
The money has already been budgeted. However, when the cabinet takes the final decision, factors such as the grim economic outlook and the austerity signals the government has been sending may also come into play.
The UGC-initiated sixth pay package for teachers, based on which the scales of centrally funded institutes were revised, has a provision that requires raising the retirement age to 65. When the Centre asked the states to implement the same scales, many states complained that raising the age limit would cause a heavy financial burden and affect the job prospects of young aspirants.
The retirement age of faculty varies from state to state. While the cut-off age is 58 in most states, Bengal, Odisha, Manipur and Goa have set it at 60, Kerala at 55, and Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh at 62.
In August last year, the HRD ministry brought the question before the cabinet, which referred it the committee of secretaries.
The panel last month agreed with the state governments, following which the HRD ministry accepted the recommendation for dropping the age condition, a source said.
At the receiving end of the stalemate are teachers in nearly 250 state universities and 25,000 colleges. A few states such as Odisha have paid the full arrears on their own and some, including Bengal, have made partial payments. But most states are waiting for the Centre to take the final decision.
However, a faculty member of Delhi University described the ministry’s change of stand as “unfortunate”.
“This is not in the interest of teachers and higher education. Talented teachers should not be allowed to go waste at an age when they are able to contribute,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, a faculty member of Delhi University and former president of the Federation of Central University Teachers Association.
“The state governments do not want to pay experienced teachers. They are appointing ad hoc and visiting faculties by paying very little. They are not appointing permanent faculties,” he added.