December 10, 2021 9:38:24 am
Teachers across Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh have been protesting for the last several months for a host of demands. These protests, though mostly peaceful, have seen the educators come out in strength to block major roads and stage dharnas, even in the face of being lathicharged by the police. Panjab University Teachers’ Association (PUTA) president, Mritunjay Kumar speaks about the issue.
Why are teachers across Punjab protesting?
The protests have been initiated on two basic issues — first the non-implementation of the 7th UGC pay scale recommendations and second on the decision of Punjab government delinking UGC pay scales from institutions of higher learning from January 1, 2016.
In 2017 and 2018, the Union Human Resources Ministry had notified the UGC pay scale and all states, except Punjab, implemented the scale in 2019. Punjab, Himachal and Chandigarh were the only states which didn’t implement the new pay scales. Both Himachal and Chandigarh adopts the rules set by the Punjab government. Once the policy is adopted by Punjab, it can implemented in these states as well.
The Punjab government, usually, after accepting the recommendations of their own pay scale used to notify the UGC scale in 15-20 days. That did not happen for the 7th pay commission and the protests began.
How long have the protests been on?
The protest has grown in three phases. The first phase started in February-March last year. We met the then Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh and his principle secretary, Suresh Kumar. After we highlighted the issue, they had made it clear to our delegation that once the 6th pay commission is given to the employees of Punjab, they would notify this. So we then ended our dharna.
Then, in June-July this year, Punjab implemented the 6th pay commission for their own employees but not for teachers, which triggered the next round of protests on September 5, symbolically on the occasion of Teachers’ Day. We also held a 45-day dharna at PU Chandigarh in which all associations of Punjab, Himachal and Chandigarh participated. On October 19, this year, Punjab education minister, Pargat Singh, and education secretary Krishan Kumar reached the PU dharna site and held a two hour meeting with us. We were assured that the new pay scales will be implemented within 15 days. However, nothing happened and we resumed the dharna on November 3. It went on till November 16, when a delegation met Pargat Singh again. He then assured us that the file has been moved to finance department for implementation.
He added that a delegation of teachers met Punjab finance minister, Manpreet Badal, on November 26 at Bhatinda wherein they were assured that the new pay scale will be notified on November 30.
I had met Punjab CM, Charanjit Singh Channi, on November 28 and apprised him about everything. He too assured us, that the new pay scale will be notified soon.
However, no such notification has been issued so afr. The teachers, who were protesting under the banner of Punjab Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (PFUCTO), were arrested instead. Some 2500 protesting teachers from three states had come to sector 25, of who 100 were arrested by the police.
Since December 1, HS Dingra, president of PFUCTO, has launched an indefinite hunger strike to press for the demands of the teachers.
We have already shut work in all educational institutions across the three states. No examinations or academic work has been taking place. We are not against our students, but our demands are genuine. If the new pay scale has been implemented from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh, then why is Punjab not doing the same.
This is not a good sign for higher education. A part of the grant comes from UGC. Some Rs 153 crore out of Rs 400 crore comes from the UGC. What Punjab is doing will deliberately destroy the education and future of the state. There are a mere 225 teachers in government colleges of the state, against a total sanctioned strength of 875.
The situation is getting dire with each passing day and the government does not seem to bother about the education crisis. Already youth sfrom the state are moving to Canada, Australia and other places. Delinking the 7th pay scale will delink Punjab’s education from the world. We will further intensify our protests very soon.
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