19 June, 2015: More than a thousand university and college teachers across the country collected on Friday under the banner of the AIFUCTO and FEDCUTA representing teachers from all State and Central Universities. They came together to protest against the increasing privatisation and commercialisation of higher education and the attack on teachers’ service conditions. There is an increasing denial of regular appointments, promotions and pension. While lakhs of teachers are being forced to work on contractual basis with low pay and without basic rights, API scheme of quantification of teachers’ work for promotion has adversely affected both research and teaching. All teachers appointed since 2004 have been denied pension and many of those appointed earlier are also facing severe harassment in release of pension due to them. Anomalies arising from the 6th Pay Revision have not yet been resolved and the 7th Pay Review Committee has not been set up. While Universities are reeling under severe shortage of infrastructure, teachers and supporting staff, the budget for Higher Education has be subjected to unprecedented cuts.
The protestors pointed out that in the last few years, roller-coaster changes in educational policy have been imposed on Universities and colleges that have severely eroded the quality of education. They demanded the withdrawal of CBCS, RUSA and Central Universities Bill, 2013 as these would disregard diversity and destroy autonomy of universities and quality of education offered. Teachers’ representatives expressed dismay that the NDA Government is moving forward with the education policies of UPA II. They pointed out that while Governments have denied basic needs like infrastructure and permanent faculty members to ensure quality education, they have mindlessly aped failed American model of education. The provision of Credit Transfer and Joint Degree Programmes between universities, at a time when public funded institutions are reeling from overcrowded class rooms, is designed to promote the interests of private institutions, domestic as well as foreign and thereby widen economic disparity. A Teachers’ Representative from Rajasthan narrated how teacher transfer was being used to target dissenters and over 2200 teachers were shuffled in order to kill the movement in the State.
The protestors were addressed by Prof Hargopal from Central University, Hyderabad, who is also actively associated with AIFRTE (All India Forum for Right To Education). He drew their attention to grave threats facing the public funded higher education system from the WTO and its drive to bring Higher Education in India under its regime of tradeable services. The Govenment of India was planning to sign its agreement on this move in WTO talks scheduled to be held in December this year in Nairobi. If this happens, system which had benefited most educated Indians today, would be dismantled. Higher Education – seen so far as a medium of creation of knowledge, critical thinking and analytical ability- would be converted into a commodity to be bought and sold. Universities – which developed since independence to produce ideas to help the country to overcome social and economic inequalities – would then be reduced to shops selling a narrowly conceived skill oriented concept of education as way to provide cheap labour to outsourced operations of multinational companies.
Former MP Nilotpal Basu (CPI-M) and former Delhi MLA Dr. Kiran Walia (Congress) also addressed the protestors, expressing their solidarity with their struggles. Students’ representatives also addressed the gathering.
A delegation of Office Bearers of AIFUCTO and FEDCUTA met the UGC Secretary, since the Chairman was not available. They submitted a memorandum and explained the issues in detail including the negative features of the CBCS and the Common Central Universities Bill, 2013.
FEDCUTA and AIFUCTO are committed to build a nation wide student-teacher struggle.Today’s protest may be seen as the launch of this all-India struggle. Meetings of the unions are scheduled over next two days to chalk out the further course of action.