By Sofi Mohd Rafiq
Education plays a vital role in the overall development of a nation. In a globalised world the real wealth of a country or state does not lie in its tangible resources but in knowledge and in an educated, skilled population that has the ability to transform a society both economically and politically. Higher education is regarded as being indispensable in this pursuit. Higher education polishes the talent of a nation and takes it to new heights. In that context, universities and colleges in Jammu and Kashmir can be treated as factories to produce qualitative human resources.In the recent past, a good number of colleges have been established in the state. But as the number of colleges increases, the problems in higher education also increase, like that of infrastructure upgradation, availability of finances et al. But the most crucial problem of our colleges is the lack of faculty, though available vacancies are filled up by contractual appointments. The teacher has to be a role model of honesty, dedication, sincerity and hard work and is expected to take responsibility to impart quality education and provide that qualitative human resource to a society. Much is expected from teachers but they cannot deliver because higher education in the state has become a hub of exploitation and injustice for contractual teachers. Therefore, the dire need is to reform this important and sensitive sector of the state by addressing the issues it face. It must be noted that all issues cannot be tackled through the prism of already-set rules, some issues need to tackled on a humanitarian basis (insaniyat).
In higher education, there are many capable people working on a contract basis, now called academic arrangement teachers. Sometime ago they were called adhoc lecturers, then it was changed to contractual lecturers and today it is academic arrangement lecturer. But that is not a matter of concern as the nature of work always remained the same. Nonetheless, a few points may be noted here:
Many of these teachers have crossed the age of marriage, and the fact of being mere contractual teachers played a role in that. Though they are teachers in a college like others, the tag did not help matters. This is a matter of shame for all of us.
This group is humiliated and their sentiments hurt almost on a daily basis because they are treated like untouchables. Often, fellow permanent members in college don’t even like to sit with them and prefer to remain in separate staff rooms. It may not be true for all colleges but such examples do exist.
Is it not true that one person is receiving a hefty amount for the same job whereas another with the tag of a ‘contractual’ receives only a meagre amount. Sometimes, it even takes more than six months to receive the salary! Remuneration not paid on time is like justice delayed being justice denied. When fellow permanent colleagues get their salary on the due date, why not contractual teachers?
The process of appointing contractual staff is itself humiliating, time consuming and a cumbersome one. Every year, standing in queues to receive or submit a form for a semi-temporary job is sheer agony. It is also astonishing that the norms and criteria for selection never remain the same.
It is also a reality that higher authorities at colleges often threaten contractuals with discontinuation of service for flimsy reasons.
The service rules allow 15 days of leave in an academic session. College authorities implement the rule in letter and spirit and even go for salary deduction when more than 15 days’ leave is taken. I am not pleading the case that there should be more leave, but it is painful when some faculty members who are non-contractual are absent from duty for months and nobody dares to ask them about it. Are rules only meant for contractual teachers?
Some of our colleagues are overage now. They cannot now even apply for other jobs. Despite their sacrifices the department is not owning them.
What is the difference between a permanent lecturer and a contractual one when it comes to work? We all endorse and believe that both are nation builders and have the same role in the development of a value based society. Both have the same assignments in colleges, but why is there discrimination against contractuals on flimsy grounds?
This group is in a state of trauma and depression though more than 70% of the work-load in colleges falls on their shoulders. College results speak volumes about their performance, but still they have not been provided job security. Doctors, assistant surgeons and others have been regularised under SRO 255 of J&K Civil Services (Special Provisions) Act 2010 for seven years of service. But unfortunately contractual teachers even after serving for years together are neglected. The reasons are best known to the authorities.
The need of the hour is to stop this humiliation, exploitation and injustice with these teachers for the betterment of the system.
—The writer is a teacher