Why Unrest Among Teachers At Higher Education In Punjab?

college teachers strike punjab

Institutions of higher education in Punjab and Chandigarh have been  through the  situation of unrest when university and college teachers  have resorted to a strike and ‘Education Bandh’, a weapon of ‘Conflict resolution’ not usually or willingly adopted by the teachers. The non- implementation of the recommendations of the UGC  seventh pay commission  and  the  voice  against the regressive decision of the Punjab government to delink  teachers’ grades from UGC pay scales are the  core issues  at the centre of state wide strike of  university and college  teachers of   Punjab and  Chandigarh.

The teachers‘ unrest  lie  in the way the state responds to their issues.  Over the last years, the state created tremendous disparities  in the service conditions of  college and university teachers through numerous cost cutting mechanisms  and the  delinking of grades from UGC  scales is the recent  decision in this direction, which   is not only undemocratic  but also a  policy to  divide teachers on various lines.  The attitude of the state towards long standing demands  to implement recommendations of   seventh pay commission  is  the reflection of state’s priority to address  its higher education sector .

To understand the  present situation one  needs to look into the broader issue  how the state opted  injudicious  policies over  the past  two-three decades. The policies of privatization of  higher education led to the  iniquitous  expansion with a significant increase in the number of universities and colleges since 1992. To  further encourage the private sector to invest in higher education, the Government of Punjab notified ‘The Punjab Private Universities Policy’, in June, 2010  which has led to the rapid mushrooming  growth of private universities in the state.   There were only four universities in the state till 1996, but with the entry of private players in higher education, this number increased from 4 to 29 with a huge number of universities  in the private sector. Same trend happened in the case of  degree, professional and teacher education colleges where phenomenal growth taken place in  self-financed colleges.  This iniquitous expansion in  state sponsored private sector has  not  only let the public institutions abandoned but also put the equity and efficiency ideals of higher education on a stake.  Under    neo liberal  agenda  the state has withdrawn its  role to bear financial costs of the government institutions  which is evident from  drastic decline  in the percentage share  of  education budget over the last decades. Consequently such  policies  has played a significant role in pushing the weaker section youth out of the  education system, however the  middle/richer  class  is opting for migration to the developed countries.

The reduction of government grants has put the public institutions into financial crunch and  other administrative constraints, like the unavailability of teachers, lack of infrastructure and other physical facilities etc.   Surprisingly  at present the government colleges  in the state are running with funds collected from parents  through parent teacher associations to pay  the  guest faculty. Many out of the rural government colleges are at the verge of closure. The State government has neither recruited regular teachers in the government colleges since 1996 nor in government aided colleges since 2004. Majority of the teaching staff in colleges works on adhoc/contractual basis and  the similar adhoc  arrangements   are  being made by the universities to cope with  the faculty  crunch.   Now it is important  for the government to address the concerns of teachers  and larger issues of higher education with empathetic understanding  to prevent the further destruction of   education sector  in the state.

Satvinderpal Kaur  teaches Education in Panjab University Chandigarh

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