Saturday, March 25, 2023
HomeOpinionPay hike for teachers is great, but India's universities need much more

Pay hike for teachers is great, but India’s universities need much more

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The pay commission recommendations bring some relief in the face of adversarial perceptions about the government by the academia at large.

The decision of the central government to accept the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission for teachers of both central and state universities will undoubtedly be seen as a measure of welcome relief by teachers all over the country. Coming as it does on the eve of Diwali, it will be perceived as a sure signal sent across the teaching community, and all over Indian universities, that this government now has the interests of a large sector of its employees- teachers– in mind.

With this decision, nearly 8 lakh teachers in central and state universities, and colleges, including those aided by the government, will be recipients of enhanced pay and benefits. In broad terms, this will mean an enhancement of anywhere between 22 per cent to 28 per cent in gross salaries. The existing basic salary and grade pay together will be enhanced by a factor of 2.5, minimising the component of dearness allowance; house rent allowances will also be increased.

While these recommendations will come to effect immediately for central universities, each state government will have to undertake separate statutory notifications, and then pass on these benefits to their teachers. While there may be some delay, it is now a near guarantee that these benefits will trickle down to teachers.

So what are the policy and political implications of this decision? And what does it do in reality for the higher education sector?

First of all, what is notable in this decision is that the central government says it will bear the burden of the enhanced pay—for central as well as state universities, with an annual financial outlay of approximately Rs 9,800 crores, something that it was allegedly averse to doing up until now. The government claims that the avowed objectives of finding and retaining good teaching talent in higher education will be served by this decision.

Soon after the Modi government came to power, the announcement of the Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers duly recognised this as an area of intended policy action. However, its mainstream actions were that of a direct collision with the university sector, perceived politically to be a bastion of the Left.

Lack-lustre appointments to top academic institutions such as the Indian Council for Historical Research, or the Indian Council for Social Science Research also signalled apathy for the higher education/university sector. To that extent, the acceptance of the pay commission recommendations will be seen as some relief or concession in the face of adversarial perceptions by the academia at large.

However, given the fact that most state and central universities are plagued by large number of vacancies, the salary hike will do little to reverse the overall dismal prospects for higher education. In prestigious state universities such as the Patna University, about to celebrate its centenary this year with no less than the Prime Minister as its chief guest, no new appointments have been made since the late 1980’s. Similar is the situation of another centenarian—the University of Mysore—once considered the hub of liberal education in India.

Dwindling support in the form of plan grants used for development purposes has meant that iconic university buildings have little resources to manage themselves, let alone provide for world-class facilities. Poor quality self-financing courses, and shadow market operations have sustained its survival. An appropriate example is the Engineering and Law courses affiliated to the University of Mysore, run in West Bengal’s Haldia, with explicit political patronage.

The reality on the ground is that underpaid, under-qualified teachers form the bulk of the higher educational professionals on the ground, untouched by the financial incentives the government is set to provide with the seventh pay commission.

Second, there is the issue of fiscal discipline, federal finances, and the uncertainty about what the central government may in reality do for the state universities. There has been some talk that the considerations of fiscal efficiency were coming in the way of the government agreeing to the enhanced liability of payments. In the past, it is said, the Finance Ministry has been hesitant in accepting these recommendations for teachers, opposing it even at the Cabinet level. So why is it that not only has it come around to accepting these recommendations, it has also gone on to promise financial support to state governments implementing the enhanced pay packets?

Here, some experts warn, there may be a catch. While the central universities and centrally funded institutions will receive the benefits with retrospective effect, from January 1, 2016, the states need to calculate their own liabilities. In an over-all situation of revenue uncertainty, specially following the pressures of demonetisation and a hasty implementation of the GST, it is unclear as to what the central government may in reality do. Budgets of the MoHRD and the UGC have shown little or no increase so far, and most public finance specialists are cautious, and will likely to wait for the actual trickle from the central to the state budgets.

Lastly, the teaching sector as a whole has seen massive protests from state-level contract teachers—variously referred to as Shiksha Mitras, Guruji, and Vidya Volunteers—the Shiksha Mitras from Uttar Pradesh were recently at the Jantar Mantar. The massive casualisation of labour in the higher education sector notwithstanding, the future will bring a grim politics of protests, if sincere reforms are not undertaken. For the moment, it is Diwali time though, and staff rooms must be busy counting bonanzas.

Manish Priyam is a senior academic and Higher Education specialist. She is currently Associate Professor at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration.

Also read: A broken teacher recruitment system negates Centre’s salary package to universities

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  1. In both the articles, on salary hike author has not mentioned the plight of contractual teachers ,their renumeration and exploitation by the govt and management , anywhere.Are these authors ignorant of the facts or acting as ostrich. Most of the colleges in Punjab and Haryana are running on contractual teachers who are paid peanuts as compared to regular teachers who don’t even take classes. Contractual teachers are getting 15 to 21000 fir the job, where as regular teachers appx 60 thousands .
    You will be shocked to know Punjab government has done a treachery to teachers. They advertised for regular (permanent)posts for govt aided private colleges. Selection was done by duly constituted panel of experts,as done for regular permanent assistant professor. But when appointment letter was issued after approval from university and DPI, they were appointed as contractual for initial three years, with no word whether they will be made permanent or not. Nowhere they are shown as permanent. Gross injustice and treachery. Even the court not taking Suo Moto notice and not deciding on their petition.
    Will author write on this?

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