Thousands of teachers protest on Teachers' Day to fight govt's anti-teacher policies
On a day when teachers are felicitated and celebrated, over a thousand teachers in Delhi marked the occasion of Teacher's Day by marching in protest from Jantar Mantar to the Office of the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, New Delhi.
The protesters – teachers and employees from central and state universities and colleges across the country – were marching under the banner of All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organizations (AIFUCTO) and Federation of Central University Teachers Associations (FEDCUTA).
The protest was called by the two umbrella teachers’ organisations in response to the non- declaration of the Chauhan Pay Review Committee (PRC) Report that was submitted to HRD ministry in February 2017.
Another demand made was for 100% funding for central and state universities. The protesters were also opposed to attempts by the government to impose various extents of privatisation and commercialisation through UGC policies like ‘autonomous colleges’ and ‘Graded Autonomy of Universities.’
Earlier in the day, Rajya Sabha MP D Raja led a delegation of AIFUCTO and FEDCUTA office bearers to meet with the HRD minister Prakash Javadekar. The delegation included the General Secretary of AIFUCTO Prof Arun Kumar, and the newly elected President of FEDCUTA and DUTA Dr Rajib Ray.
Speaking to Catch News, Rajib Ray made it clear that the outcome of the meeting wasn't entirely satisfactory. “The meeting was a step forward, but was definitely not successful. The minister assured us that the pay revision would be announced soon, but had no answers for the unprecedented secrecy about the report of the PRC, or any assurance about our demand for 100% funding for central and state universities,” said Ray.
Ray also alleged that the government's response thus far also had more nefarious intentions. “The minister tried to create a wedge between the FEDCUTA and the AIFUCTO by saying that central universities will have the pay revision at the earliest, but he said he cannot ensure what will happen with the state universities,” Ray informed Catch, adding, “He [Javadekar] did not promise anything for the state university including pay revision. But we are completely united in our demands. The government’s policy is not in favour of the best interest of teachers. Our agitation will not stop until our demands are met. This is for the future of education in our country.”
Arun Kumar, general secretary of AIFUCTO, told Catch, “There are so many issues plaguing our teachers as of now. Permanent positions in central and state universities are lying vacant but ad-hoc teachers are being employed at basic minimal salaries. No promotion for teachers is being done for years and years. The govt is interfering in all aspects of university functioning, but as far as finances are concerned they want us to fend for ourselves.”
Kumar contends that the actions of the present government are unprecedented. “They have taken away all our autonomy and a corporate structure is being set up. How will students be able to afford higher education once it becomes privatised? This government is making structural changes in higher education brazenly, even without the nod of the Parliament unlike any govt before them,” he says.
Nandita Narain, the former president of FEDCUTA and DUTA, was also a part of the delegation that met the HRD minister. She said, “The pay review committee looks into all service conditions of teachers starting with permanent appointments, time-bound promotions, pensions, the pay scale and its conversion in the 7th pay commission. And the minister had no answers to give about any of it. He said the revision will come out soon but what is worrying is that we need to see the report first before it is implemented; we want to discuss the report before a final decision is taken. Never has there been such a lack of transparency.”
Almost 23 central and state universities were represented in the protest at Jantar Mantar including Jamia Millia Islamia, Calcutta University, Jadavpur University, Panjab University, Himachal State University and Karnatak University. Similar protests also took place in other cities like Kolkata, Chandigarh and Lucknow.
With today's meeting with the government failing to resolve the issue, the AIFUCTO and FEDCUTA expressed their resolve to intensify the protests nationwide, even threatening to include students and parents in future agitations.