He did not enter the staff room, he barged in; he did not speak with respect, he shouted at; he did not address a fellow teacher, but a bonded labourer; he did so because he was a permanent college professor speaking to a lecturer appointed on ‘academic arrangement’.
Strangely, though, the lecturer had a PhD from a top Indian Central University and a post-doc from the United States.
Feeling humiliated and rebuked, the lecturer spoke no word. A few minutes later, he groaned and said, “Aah, my hard luck. My research, my experience, my education got me a job of Rs 28,000, and left me to vultures who know me not.” In his pain he murmured, “At home, I am a lecturer, to students I am contractual, to the government I am an academic arrangement, to permanent faculty members I am a nobody, and to the non-teaching staff my writing Dr as my title is abominable”. As he sighed, I was reminded of Colleen Wilcox, an educator and administrator who describes teaching as the greatest act of optimism.
The academic arrangement culture is a regressive system that works on a ‘hired to be fired’ policy. Damocles’ sword constantly hangs over the heads of the appointees, who have no certainty of the future due to lack of job security. It is also a segregationist system that matches the Apartheid, wherein ‘Haves’ are prejudiced and discriminatory against the ‘Have-nots’. This apartheid system emerges not from qualifications and worth of people but from the nature of appointment, salary, and status. The people who have permanent appointment receive more than a lakh in monthly salary, and have the prefix of professor. They deem it necessary to maintain a gap against the un-equals who have been selected for an academic session, at one-third of their salary, and banned from using ‘Assistant Professor’ title despite doing the same job.
In this system, the salary of an academic arrangement faculty member is deducted if he arrives late for duty, but the permanent faculty member is free to come and leave as per his own wishes and whims. In this culture, a professor avoids having more than one teaching session a day while an academic arrangement faculty member has to hold five classes in the same duration. Every act/duty that earns good remuneration is to be done by the permanent folks; they are to take the credit of all that is good happening around. The academic arrangements will collect money for excursions from students and make lists of students who are to be penalised.
To this rule, the existence of a Staff Association/Council of an annual tenure for the permanents is a must, but no such permission shall be granted to those who actually need it the most. The humiliating and exploitative experience of teachers who do not receive the full salary, are temporary, and face apartheid of a kind, nullifies the very objectives of the educational policy (NEP-2020) which supposedly seeks respect, dignity, and autonomy at all levels for teaching professionals.
The rulers of the day are happy that highly educated people are competing for peanuts; the society is happy that their wards are graduating; the permanent faculty members enjoy reign over the bonded labourers; and in the midst of this, the cream of the society – that honed talent, was energetic, and had the means to create a learned generation – is lost in hopelessness and humiliation.
The conscience of rulers will not awaken as this has consistently been none of their concerns. The rich and established people will never intervene as their children do not enrol in these institutions. It is for the poor and middle classes to ponder over because it is their children who are ruined in this hopeless education system.
My personal experience with the Academic Arrangement system and with the permanent faculty members has been horrific, and I would wish no young lad to suffer this crisis of immense magnitude. Before we lose our youthful days in this temporary system that creates a permanent impairment in our thought and practice, it is better to revolt and rise.
—The writer is a Contractual Lecturer, Department of English, J&K. [email protected]