Hamid Ali is proud of what he has achieved during his 39-year-tenure at Aligarh Muslim University. From being the founder of Chemical Engineering department to rising to the post of acting Vice Chancellor, he served the prestigious university in various capacities. However, he finds himself in dire straits when the university disbursed only half of his pension. The story is the same for thousands of retired teaching and non- teaching staff this month.
Ali, who retired in November last year, recalled that his daughter was an assistant professor when she expressed her desire to pursue her dream to study abroad. “I readily backed her and sent her to study in Italy. Now, with only half of my pension, I really do not know how I will support her or even survive on my own,” he said.
Ali alleged that the university has denied benefits like gratuity and leave encashments to the employees on the pretext of a fund crunch. “The more depressing part about the denial is that university failed to issue any notification or any advanced notice prompting the pensioners to be ready for the crisis,” Ali added.
Aarif Islam, a former professor who retired two years ago, said that the sudden move by the university has come as a blow to many fourth grade pensioners as the university follows a family pension scheme. Under a family pension scheme, an employee is handed over half of their basic salary as pension. If the pensioner dies, the family gets half the benefit. Islam too alleged that he was yet to receive retirement benefits. He said that many were paying EMIs for home loans and personal loans.
Miffed with the situation, the Aligarh Muslim University Teachers Association has written a letter to the President of India who also serves as the ‘Visitor’ to all central universities.
Najmul Islam, General Secretary, AMUTA, told NewsClick that it was beyond their imagination that the university was facing such an acute financial crisis. “AMU is fully sponsored by the University Grants Commission. It never came to our notice that the teachers and pensioners of central universities like Delhi University had to go through this ordeal. Even state universities like Chaudhary Charan Singh University of Babasaheb Ambedkar University faced such issues. The action speaks volumes about the attitude of the university towards pensioners. There are clear and ample rulings by different high courts and the Supreme Court that the state cannot deprive its employees of a basic right like pension,” he said.
Islam was referring to a recent judgement by the Supreme Court. In it, the apex court ruled that pension was a “social welfare measure as a post-retirement entitlement to maintain the dignity of the employee.” In the case of V.Sukumaran versus the government of Kerala, the court ruled: “Pension is succour for post-retirement period. It is not a bounty payable at will, but a social welfare measure...”
Professor Shafey Kidwai, Public Relations Officer of the university, hoped the pensions would likely be granted this week after the University Grants Commission and Ministry of Education agreed to release the remaining grant. He told NewsClick: “We received funds under different heads. There was a deficit of Rs 17 crore under the pensions head. UGC and Ministry of Education has given the nod for disbursal. Hopefully, we will release the remaining pensions this week.”