By Sofi Rafiq
All that glitters is not gold . Education plays a vital role in the overall development of a nation. In this globalised world the real wealth of a country or state is not in its tangible resources but in knowledge and in educated, skilled population, who have ability to transform a society both economically and politically. Higher education is indispensable in this pursuit. Higher education polishes the talent of a nation and takes it to new heights besides universities colleges are part and parcels of higher education in Jammu and Kashmir. They can be treated as factories to provide qualitative human resource to play their role in different walks of life.
In the year 2019 Governor Administration led by the then Honourable Governor Satya Pal Malik Ji announced 100 new colleges to be established far and wide in Jammu and Kashmir it is a welcome decision as the number of such institutions increase it opens new vistas for development on education front and create more opportunities for our students to get higher education nearby besides increasing avenues for employment. Among the announced colleges some have to be the model colleges since some colleges have already started functioning and some are moving forward in positive direction. As the number of colleges increase the problems associated with them also increase like that of infrastructure up gradation, framing of course structure, availability of finances and many more. But the most crucial problem of our colleges is the lack of faculty and staff. Though, the shortage of faculty is fulfilled by contractual appointments. The process of which is full of inconsistencies and lacunas. The teacher has to be a role model of honesty, dedication, sincerity, hard work for his students and is expected to take divine responsibility to impart quality education and provide qualitative human resource to a society. Much is expected from the teachers but they cannot deliver up to mark if the system in which they work is exploitative.
In higher education every year to address the dearth of staff contractual appointments are made. The process of appointing such staff is itself Faulty, humiliating, Time consuming, and a cumbersome one. One of the senior party leaders of Peoples Democratic Party Jenab Muzafar Hussain Beigh sahib is treated as the architect of Contractualism in higher education. This policy of recruitment in JK Colleges is going on for 02 decades now which is proving to be the civilised way of committing Human Rights Violation Irony of the matter is that till date higher education has not framed a suitable policy for such appointments. It is astonishing that the norms and criteria for selection every year changes which has turned Contractualism not less than a social evil and has ruined the life of at least 2500 well qualified intellectuals across Jammu and Kashmir.
The important reform that is taking place and is continue till today is the name change game for such recruitments. Sometime back they were called as Adhoc lecturers, then it was changed to contractual lecturers then to academic arrangement lecturer and now need based academic arrangement lecturers. Changing nomenclature is not a matter of concern for the capable people working on contract basis as changing name in no way is going to change the nature of work (Naam Main Kya Rakha Ha) it is quite possible that in near future they may get some another name these are nothing but bureaucratic Jugads. The painful part of the story is remaining in queues every year to receive or submit a form for a semi-temporary job adds salt to wounds. It adds to the agony when the student whom he\she taught in one college or the other applies along with him\her as no government till date has addressed the genuine issue of job security to the so called nation builders.
It is also very painful that many of the teachers have given more than 07 years of service to the higher education and even some have given more than fifteen years as well and are over age now they have worked sincerely, dedicatedly in the colleges that too in tough times and have sacrificed a lot. Where they will go now when they have already crossed the age limit while serving the department at meagre wages starting with Rs 8000 per month only is a big question that can be asked? These poor teachers have knocked each and every door in the power corridors but of no use. They adopted all means of peaceful protests to press on their demands but all in vain then their only hope remained the Honourable Court. As such they were forced to approach court to get Status Quo for the posts they are working on.
Now two questions arise that need to be pondered upon and answered sincerely. First some quarters of the society blame that the academic arrangement teachers are ineligible for the post they held and secondly they are gazetted posts hence cannot be filled by bypassing PSC.
Coming to the first question that they are not eligible, those whom you call ineligible how and on what basis they work in colleges then. It is stark reality that with changing times the eligibility criteria for a post will change but at the time of first appointment they all were eligible and now after 20 years down the line due to change in eligibility criteria they become ineligible. Does it mean that all those respected teachers who have contributed lot to the society appointed some 25 years back when eligibility criteria for becoming Assistant Professor was just post graduation and some of them are now acting as principles in different colleges will be asked to leave the department as they fail to fulfil eligibility criteria for the post at present, because now the eligibility criteria is either PhD or NET\SET. How it would have been possible for contractual/Academic Arrangement teachers to get eligibility when they are supposed to give in writing every year at the time of appointment that they are not doing any further studies regular or part-time but those assistant professors who come through JKPSC are given ample chances to get eligibility for associate professor or Professor post is it not injustice what else you may call it and can anybody make me understand what about those who are already eligible. Let me set the set the record correct when worthy Prof. Zahoor Ahmad Chatt was the Nodal Principal at Amar singh College Srinagar under his supervision higher education conducted the state level competitive written test for the appointment of contractual lecturers. There is a norm when you qualify any test for recruitment you are not only qualified but worthy too to get appointed on the post. Therefore, the people who qualified that test are not only eligible but worthy too to teach in colleges and the people working on Status Quo are most of them who have qualified that written test.
Secondly, the matter of bypassing PSC let me remind the readers that in past in the Jammu and Kashmir Doctors, Assistant surgeons and others had been regularised under SRO 255 of J&K Civil Services (Special Provisions) Act 2010 for seven years of service to claim clear vacancy. Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers demands were fulfilled on 30th June 2014 and education volunteers (EV’S) were regularised in 2002, similarly Rehbar-e –Zirat (agriculture Graduates) were regularised under 3 year policy from April 1, 2014 was not recruiting agencies were by passed in these instances.
The fact of the matter is that higher education in the Jammu and Kashmir lacks sincerity of approach in dealing with the contractual/ Academic arrangement lectures and has become a hub of exploitation and injustice for these contractual teachers. Therefore the dire need of the hour is to reform this most important and sensitive sector of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir manning the cream of society by addressing their genuine issues they face, and it is worth to mention, that all issues are not addressed and tackled through the prism of already set of rules but some issues need to tackled on humanitarian basis (Insaniyat). It is also to mention here that this write-up is not written to hurt sentiments of anybody but to express the bleeding wounds for reformation.
Now, when the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is in direct control of Delhi. It is high time for the administration to ponder and heal the wounds of youth in general and teaching fraternity in particular by addressing their genuine concerns. My humble request to the officers/ officials in the administration is to take the clue from the state of Tamil Nadu were they at a time regularised 13000 contractual teachers. It is a good time for all of us to introspect and the need of the hour is to frame a concrete and suitable job policy for all those college contractual teachers who are working in colleges at present. After all it is a matter of 2500 intellectuals and the families at their back. It is a humanitarian issue and they have every right like others to live a respectable and dignified life. Providing job security to these teachers will infuse the new life in the whole education system.
My Humble request to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir L.G. Murmu that he may feel the pain and heal the wounds of unfortunate teachers serving higher education years together who are neglected till date reasons best know to the authorities. The teachers have higher expectations from you sir.
Lastly, Now it is the responsibility of the administration to be responsive for betterment of the system and instead of changing recruitment rules and nomenclature every year they must adopt the already set Guidelines of UGC for making recruitment on such posts in future and to come up with a concrete job policy for the teachers presently serving in the colleges. Otherwise good results from the higher education will remain a farfetched dream for ever.
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