Rajasthan Elections: Pathetic Condition of Govt Colleges not a Poll Issue
The Jama Masjid road in Losal town of Sikar turns sharply to Rajakiya Mahavidyalay (Government College), one of the 157 colleges set up by the Congress government in Rajasthan in the last five years.
However, the initial excitement of 650-odd students who thought that they would learn everything in humanities from quality teachers has turned into disappointment. The college runs in a building borrowed from Shri Dedraj Khetan Government Senior Secondary School with five teachers and one clerk.
“Regular classes aren’t held even after four years. The local Congress leadership boasts about the new under-construction building of the college,” Yogesh, an undergraduate student, tells NewsClick.
“The Gehlot government could have shown promptness in hiring teachers. Education can be imparted in small buildings but not without teachers,” he says.
An hour’s drive from the college to Sikar city leads to the renowned Government Science College. Despite having the full strength of teachers, students maintain that their workload is so huge that they aren’t available for lectures and lab work.
Sandeep Nehra, MSc (chemistry), tells NewsClick that the sanctioned strength of teachers should have been revised to meet the workload. “The number of students has increased over the years while no new teachers have been hired. Students depend on self-study and help of seniors to complete the syllabus.”
During three rallies held along with Rahul Gandhi in Taranagar, Hanumangarh and Sri Ganganagar on November 16, chief minister Ashok Gehlot proudly announced the list of new colleges in the region.
However, students narrate the ground reality. Rajasthan Universities and College Non-teaching Employees Union’s former president Laxman Sain tells NewsClick that higher education institutes are being increasingly privatised through contractualisation of services.
“College and university campuses are deserted. There are no teaching and non-teaching staff in colleges. Many seats are vacant. A few contractual staff have been hired to run minimal operations,” he alleges.
As per Department of Higher and Technical Education data, 6,566 posts at 490 colleges are vacant against the sanctioned strength of 12,654, implying a 50% vacancy. In the 2022-23 academic session, no teacher was recruited by the new 117 colleges. Moreover, only 36 colleges have principals.
“The state government has also stopped providing lumpsum grant to colleges and universities. Earlier, grants would include salaries, pensions and other expenses. Now, only permanent employees are paid,” Sain says.
“Let’s assume that there are 300 employees against the sanctioned strength of 800 posts. If colleges engage 100 contractual staff, they will have to pay them because the government would only pay the salaries of 300 employees. Besides, the quality of education is severely compromised as colleges resist increasing fees,” he adds.
Sain further alleged that University Grants Commission has significantly reduced the number of special grants given to state universities for research.
Echoing similar concerns, Rajasthan University and College Teachers Association president Ghasi Ram Chaudhary says that the government opted for an unscientific approach in introducing new colleges without hiring new teachers.
“College teachers are recruited through the Rajasthan Public Service Commission. But teachers haven’t been recruited for decades. Bureaucrats show undue haste in implementing directives from Delh—let’s implement the semester system overnight, let’s change the syllabus. Do they ever think about the needs of colleges and universities?” he asks.
Chaudhary said that students organisations can turn the state of colleges into an electoral issue but they are not strong in every district.
Students’ Federation of India secretary Subhash Jakhar says, “Gehlot constructed new colleges and universities on paper with no visible infrastructure, faculty and facilities.”
The Congress and the BJP, he says, are “contesting the election on traditional factors like caste, religion and region and have forgotten about college and university students”.
“During the BJP regime, the set-up wasn’t enough to build colleges. The Congress set up new colleges under the Societies Act but many people are apprehensive that they night be handed over to private contractors. Our universities have 60% staff deficiency. The new colleges have only one staff and a principal each,” he adds.
Jakhar says that the New Education Policy has just been implemented in the state “without any syllabus”. “We got to know that the exams would be held in last week of December. It’s a very frustrating situation for us.”
The Gehlot government’s promise of providing laptops and mobile phones to school and college students seemed to be aimed at bridging the digital divide post-pandemic.
However, Jakhar remains unconvinced. “Giving a phone to a tribal student in Sirohi district would hardly help him/her because he/she may not have the desired Internet speed to access tutorial videos. We need real infrastructure to impart education.”
Asking the youth to vote sensibly in the Assembly election, he says, “Paper leaks continue both in BJP and Congress regimes. Seventy per cent positions in state undertakings are vacant. I hope young voters realise this and vote accordingly.”
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