State Education Minister Vinod Tawde met a delegation of college professors, who are on strike across the state, in Mumbai recently to hear their demands, one of which is higher salaries for professors of non-grantable colleges. But there are concerns that agreeing to this would trigger protests from students, since such colleges pay teachers’ salaries out of the fees paid by students. Agreeing to hike teachers’ salaries would mean increasing students’ fees.
The Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (MFUCTO) had started the strike on September 25, and hundreds of professors of degree colleges across the state responded. As the strike entered its fifth day on Saturday, the impact wasn’t as prominent in urban pockets as it was in semi-urban and rural areas. Among the union’s demands is that teachers at non-grantable colleges in the state should get the benefits of the Seventh Pay Commission, similar to the benefits granted to professors at grantable colleges. Given that the number of non-grantable colleges in Maharashtra is much higher than the number of grantable colleges, education experts said the burden of salaries could indirectly be passed on to students.
At the meeting, Tawde had indicated his willingness to accept most of the demands.
“Salaries of professors at grantable colleges are paid by the government, but there is no parity in the salaries of professors at non-grantable colleges. In the latter case, the salaries are collected through fees and are generally lower. That’s why we have demanded that, if not arrears, at least salaries should be on par. The government has signalled its willingness to accept the demand,” said S P Lawande, secretary of MFUCTO.
Senior educationist A P Kulkarni, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Rashtriya Shikshak Mahasangh, Maharashtra, who was also present at the meeting with Tawde, agreed this would mean increasing students’ fees.
“The Seventh Pay Commission benefits could be brought into force from January 2019, though the government has not yet communicated a fixed date. Since this year’s fees has been paid by students, it cannot be increased retrospectively. But if colleges are expected to give higher salaries to professors, it is only natural that they will have to increase students’ fees. If this comes into force, they can submit a proposal to the fee regulation committee to allow increasing course fees on these grounds,” said Kulkarni.
Asked about the number of non-grantable colleges in the state, he added that there are over 3,000 with 500 affiliated to the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU).
However, college principals are sceptical about the proposal and fear student protests. “The fees of non-grantable courses in degree colleges is fixed by the university and in the last five years, fees have not been increased. That’s why it’s about time that a fee increase is done. But to meet the Seventh Pay Commission would mean a substantial increase, and we are not sure how students would take it. Agreeing to such a demand would come with its own problems,” said the principal of a city college while requesting anonymity.