Srinagar: At a time when Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing the worst monthly unemployment rate, which has been further compounded by the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, the government is mulling to enhance the retirement age of teachers working in degree colleges in the region, thus creating the fear of further contraction of employment opportunities.
An order issued by Commissioner Secretary, General Administration Department, Manoj Kumar Dwivedi on Friday accorded sanction to a 7-member committee headed by Advisor in-charge of Higher Education Department to examine the issue of enhancement of retirement age of teaching faculty at J&K colleges.
Commissioner Secretaries of GAD and Higher Education Department, Secretary of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Director General of Codes, Finance Department, Director of Colleges, and a representative of the University Grants Commission have been included as the other six members of the committee.
The proposal to enhance the retirement age of college teachers, which is 60, already at par with J&K government employees, comes at a time when Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing an unprecedented unemployment crisis.
As per the data compiled by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), J&K stands third only to Haryana and Rajasthan in terms of the monthly unemployment rate for the month of October this year at 16.1 percent.
Moreover, J&K had the highest monthly average unemployment rate of over 15 percent between January 2016 and July 2019 as per the CMIE data.
Last year’s Kashmir lockdown due to abrogation of Article 370 and this year’s Covid-19 lockdown have only compounded the unemployment in J&K.
Earlier this year, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) released a ‘preliminary assessment’ report saying around 5 lakh people had lost their jobs since August 5, 2019, when J&K’s special status was scrapped.
Given this acute financial stress, the J&K government’s proposal to enhance the retirement age of college teachers is “infeasible”, more so when it has already enhanced the age only six years ago, says Rafique Ahmad Rather, President of the Employees Joint Action Committee. The J&K government enhanced the retirement age of its employees from 58 to 60 years in 2014.
“I don’t think it will be feasible at this point of time when unemployment has touched the sky and job opportunities in the private sector are almost nil. It will not be in the interest of the people of J&K, especially of the youth,” Rather said.
Rather warned that if the government enhances the retirement age of employees of one particular department, the “employees of other departments will also demand the same”.
Such demands can trigger another agitation by the employees difficult for the government to cope with, he added.
The President EJAC feared that enhancing the retirement age of already employed teachers instead of recruiting new staff for the newly set up degree colleges will have adverse impact on quality education.
Vice President of the J&K College Contractual Teachers Association (JKCCTA), Dr Mohammad Yousuf Nengroo, whose association has long been demanding regularisation of the college contractual teachers, said that enhancing the retirement age of college teaching faculty will only add to their miseries.
The proposal, he said, goes contradictory to the assurances by successive governments to “secure the future of the youth”.
“On the contrary, they are securing the future of already employed teachers,” he quipped.
Social activist Raja Muzaffat Ahmad Bhat suggested that instead of enhancing the retirement age of permanent teachers, the government should regularise the contractual college teachers and recruit new ones to improve the teacher pupil ratio.