Guest Lecturers in Tamil Nadu Demand Expedition of Job Regularisation
Guest lecturers protesting inside the Directorate of Collegiate Education campus in Chennai.
The guest lecturers working in government arts and science colleges in Tamil Nadu are awaiting equal pay for equal work and permanent jobs as promised by the government. Around 4,000 such lecturers work in the colleges for a monthly salary of Rs 20,000.
The policy decision of the state government taken in 2021 to regularise the lecturers with qualifications prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) remains stalled. The Director of Collegiate Education (DCE) conducted a certificate verification process in February 2021, but further steps have not been taken.
A three-day protest was held from February 7 in the DCE office, demanding the government to expedite the regularisation of jobs as per the promises made during the previous regime. After talks with concerned officials and the ongoing online exams for students and urban local body polls, the protest was put off.
A total of 4,084 guest lecturers are working in two shifts in the 108 government arts and science colleges across Tamil Nadu. The previous regime, led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), decided to regularise the guest lecturers after prolonged protests and demands.
"The previous government promised us regularisation of jobs, and even certificate verification was held by the department. But, due to the announcement of the assembly elections, the process was not completed," said Dr SS Ramajayam, member of the Tamil Nadu Government Arts and Science College Guest Lecturers Coordination Committee.
The present government, led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), has not proceeded further.
"We held the protest to seek the attention of the state government. After three days of continuous protests, we were called for talks. Since the higher education secretary is unavailable due to the local body polls, our protest has been temporarily withdrawn," Ramajayam said.
The protesting guest lecturers found support from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi.
The state secretary of CPI(M), K Balakrishnan and VCK deputy general secretary Vanni Arasu visited the protesting guest lecturers.
Ramajayam further added, "Most of the guest lecturers are above the age of 45 and have served for more than 15 years in this capacity. The government must ensure our jobs are protected and regularised".
The process had hit legal hurdles in 2021, with an interim stay from the Madras High Court on absorbing guest lecturers.
'EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK'
The guest lecturers are entrusted with similar works carried out by regular teaching faculty in such colleges. But are paid Rs 20,000 per month and for 11 months a year. The appointment orders are provided for 11 months a year, from June to April during every academic year.
"We are carrying out all the work done by the regular teaching faculty. We are being paid much less and demand the government to pay equal pay for equal pay," said Ramajayam.
The guest lecturers continue to handle online classes in May, during which they are not paid.
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the guest lecturers were not paid any salary for months together. They also faced a similar situation during the second wave of the pandemic. They were forced to survive without a salary for almost five months.
Guest lectures in Tamil Nadu are among the underpaid compared with their counterparts in other states. The salary was increased to Rs 20,000 from Rs 15,000 in 2019.
The UGC had hiked the salary of guest lecturers to Rs 1,500 per lecture subject to a maximum of Rs 50,000 per month.
"During the pandemic, we have been handling classes through online and offline modes. But we are not paid for months, and wages remain much lower than the UGC prescribed norms. The government should ensure our livelihood and future are protected," Ramajayam said.
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