Teachers and staff of non-government colleges in Uttarakhand have accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of constantly trying to suppress their voices, first by ignoring their demands and then by using various means to create an atmosphere of fear.
It may be noted that teachers and employees of 18 non-government colleges in Uttarakhand have been agitating since long for various demands, which have been constantly ignored by the government. Now, the government has gone a step further and is “suppressing their movement and scaring them into not launching any such movement in the future.”
This is why the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University Teachers Association (GUTA) has strongly objected to a letter issued by the Directorate of Higher Education to the principal, seeking a list of teachers and employees involved in the sit-in protest.
Also, if the teacher says that he/she has not participated in the demonstration, then they have been asked to give proof, which has been made mandatory for the release of salaries.
What is the whole issue?
The Uttarkhand government's 18 non-government-aided colleges have been removed by the state government from Chapter XI-A in the Uttarakhand University Bill 2020, neglecting the interests of teachers, staff as well as the students of all these colleges.
After Uttarakhand was separated from Uttar Pradesh, the State Reorganisation Act 2001, provided that the interests of all the institutions coming out of UP and those in Uttarakhand and the salaries and pensions received by their employees will be protected in the same manner as before.
By removing of Chapter XI-A, which gave such protection, in the new Bill, the government has put in peril the future of all the teachers and employees in the said institutions.
With their future hanging in balance, the teachers and employees approached the government and put forth their problems, but no solution was found. They, therefore, had no option but to launch an agitation.
V P Singh, President of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University Teachers Association, says that it has come to his notice that if all these non-government colleges get affiliated to Shri Dev Suman Uttarakhand University, Tehri Garhwal, then the government will give grants to these colleges etc. and the status quo will be maintained.
But the teachers and staff say that they have nothing to do with the affiliation, for which the state government can issue a direct order. Why are we being made to suffer, they ask.
The problem of affiliation has been plaguing Uttarkhand colleges in the past, too. First, these were affiliated to Agra University, followed by Meerut University, then HNB Garhwal Srinagar and then Central University HNB Srinagar.
What is important here is that each time the affiliations were changed, teachers and staff, and even managing committees of colleges were not consulted. The affiliations were changed through an Act or by an Ordinance.
So, it is surprising that now the Uttarakhand Directorate of Higher Education has asked for a list of teachers and employees of non-government colleges who have traveled to the secretariat seeking amendment to the University Bill 2020, only after that will their salaries be released.
When asked, the Director of Education, Kumkum Rautela, said that after the list is submitted, the department will see whether teachers and staff were on duty at that time, adding that the order for such a list has come for the ‘higher authorities’.
When asked for his reaction by NewsClick, Rajesh Pal , who teaches in DAV College, Dehradun , said it was their constitutional right to protest on any issue and in this way (by sending letters) they were being oppressed .
Pal said they had given prior information to the authorities about the demonstration, and that a collective letter would be submitted to the administration regarding the demands. He said the process was completely peaceful, yet the attitude of the administration was very unfortunate as it sought to suppress democratic rights.
VP Singh also said that the government order was “completely undemocratic”, adding that they had been seeking a meeting for a long time to find a solution to the problem, but the government was not willing.
“Now our voice is being suppressed in this manner,” he said adding that harassment or action against any teacher and employee will not be tolerated.
Singh accused the state higher education minister Dhan Singh Rawat and Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat of ignoring their demands and and taking “dictatorial” steps by issuing such orders.
When asked, Anand Singh Uniyal, Deputy Director of Higher Education Department, said the list of teachers involved in the demonstration has been sought on behalf of minister Dhan Singh Rawat, adding that the nature of action to be taken when the list is made, was not clear yet.
Meanwhile, students too are concerned about the impact of all this on them.
Himanshu Chauhan, Uttarakhand state secretary of Student Federation of India (SFI) said that a large number of students are studying in non-government aided colleges across the state. In such a situation, it was incomprehensible that grants were being stopped in these colleges
This will create a crisis of salaries for teachers and other staff, said the SFI leader, adding that at the same time, this will also affect the education of students, as it is these grants that make subsidised higher education possible for poor students.
The stoppage of the grant will lead to manifold increase in fees, which is an injustice to the students, said Chauhan, adding that the government should look into the problems instead of suppressing the voice of teachers and staff.
(Translated from Hindi)