With the selection process getting quashed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Punjab government yet to file any reply before the court, the fate of 607 assistant professors and librarians, who were given appointment letters during the previous Congress government, hang in balance. While 124 out of them continue to be paid, there is no surety of what will happen.
Talking about the candidates’ plight, 32-year-old Dr Mohammad Sohail, the HoD of the public administration department of Mahindra College, Patiala, said, “The Congress government had advertised to fill up 1,158 posts of assistant professors and librarians. Against these vacant posts, 607 candidates were given appointment letters, of which 124 got posted at different colleges.” Sohail is also the convenor of the association of the deprived assistant professors and was selected in his post in October 2021. The posts were advertised after a gap of 19 years.
He added, “When the matter went to the court after some aspirants challenged the process of recruitment in November 2021, the postings and appointment letters of the remaining selected candidates were stalled and subsequently, the selection process was quashed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on August 9. Though the 124 assistant professors are still drawing salaries, you never know when we will get terminated because the Punjab government hasn’t filed any reply before till date although we teachers have done our part.”
Sohail further said, “It is not just a question of only those 124 candidates who got their letters, it is a matter of concern for all of us.”
He added, “On September 19 we had gathered in Barnala seeking an appointment from higher education minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer but we were brutally lathicharged. This is not the way to treat us.”
Sohail has presented research papers in around 20 conferences, seminars and workshops held in India, US, Canada, Singapore, China and South Africa. According to his resume, he is a recipient of prestigious fellowships, including the Student Mobility Grant by Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (SICI), 2014 Founder Fellow, American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), Asian Scholar Grant, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and 2014 Young Scholar, ASPA. Sohail has also been awarded membership of American Society for Public Administration, USA and International Public Policy Association, France.
The State Council of Educational Research and Training, U T Chandigarh has recently appointed Sohail as the Chairman of the Focus Group on ‘Alternative Ways of Schooling’ for drafting a position paper on the concerned theme under the National Curriculum Framework, his CV says.
“In December 2019, I started working in a government college for girls in Chandigarh’s Sector 11 as a public administration teacher but quit the job for better prospects when the posts were advertised in October last year. Now my future is hanging in the balance even after doing so much research work,” he said.
Sohail further said, “After the selection process was quashed, we were not heard even for once by anyone from the government. Is this a way to treat education providers? Look at the number of years we put in to get educated and most of us had quit our previous jobs.”
“I had cleared UGC-NET and Junior research fellowship (JRF) tests in single attempts and chose to do a doctorate. During various visits to foreign countries after being awarded fellowships, I was often asked why I am not opting for a career in these countries. But I told them I want to serve my motherland and today I am at a crossroads.”
Sohail spoke at length about his plight in Sunday’s Vangar rally in Barnala. His younger brother too has been chosen as an assistant professor in Geography and had quit his job as the estate officer in the Waqf Board, Patiala but got no actual posting except for the appointment letter. “He now regrets resigning from his previous job.”
Sohail is not alone in this fight.
The appointment of Dr Dilraj Kaur, 44, who holds a PhD in sociology, was also quashed. She too was a victim of lathicharge on September 19 and was also detained. “I have five years of experience in private colleges, and for another five years, I have served as a child welfare officer in Chandigarh and as a counsellor in the health department at Ludhiana. Last year, I quit the private college job to join as assistant professor and now even that is gone,” she said.
Dr Paramjeet Kaur (32), was working in an aided college in Jalandhar for more than 4 years when she got selected as assistant professor in a government college in Hoshiarpur last year.
Kaur, who hold a PhD in physical education, said that she still is under trauma of the lathicharge incident. “In the past too, I was selected as a lecturer but even that post was quashed,” said the national level basketball player.
Even in the face of trauma and uncertainty, there are others who are hopeful. Dr Aruna Rani (40), who also got appointment letter for the post of assistant professor at Hoshiarpur government college last year, said that now they are planning to gather on September 30 and start another protest.