People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 28, 2006
The Left Intervenes With The PM On Behalf
Of College & University Teachers
PRIME minister Dr Manmohan Singh assured the representatives of All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations (AIFUCTO) and Federation of Central University Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA) that he would ‘do his best’ to implement the 1998 agreement between HRD ministry and AIFUCTO. He would discuss the issue with HRD minister Arjun Singh to see how the cabinet note in respect of Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) from 1-1-96, parity for DPEs and Librarians and Professorship in colleges could be approved without any further delay. He appealed to the teachers to withdraw their indefinite dharna in view of the assurances.
The secretariat of AIFUCTO expressed satisfaction with the response of the prime minister and decided to suspend the ongoing dharna for the time being. However, the secretariat warned that it would intensify the stir if specific orders were not issued within a reasonable time frame. AIFUCTO’s meeting with the prime minister was facilitated by the intervention of the Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and A B Bardhan. They drew the attention of the PM to the injustice being perpetuated by the government of India through its refusal to honour its agreement with AIFUCTO on removing the anomalies in the implementation of the fifth UGC pay scales.
The teacher leaders met the prime minister on May 17, 2006, the second day of the indefinite dharna launched by AIFUCTO at Jantar Mantar. Hundreds of teachers drawn from different parts of the country had taken part in the relay dharna in the first two days and many more were expected to join in the following days. AIFUCTO had organised the dharna apprehending that the finance ministry would scuttle the approval of the cabinet note that would resolve some of the long pending demands of college and university teachers. The AIFUCTO leaders told the PM that the teachers were only asking for the implementation of the agreement of September 5, 1998 between HRD ministry and AIFUCTO. In fact, AIFUCTO had withdrawn the 26-day nationwide college and university teachers’ strike following the agreement. But the government of India had so far failed to fulfill its promises. Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, the then HRD minister in the NDA government had even refused to meet the AIFUCTO delegation to discuss the implementation of the agreement. He had taken the stand in retaliation of AIFUCTO’s criticism of his move to saffronise and commercialise education. The standoff between AIFUCTO and NDA government became more strident with the NDA’s attempt to implement the recommendations of Ambani-Birla report in higher education by enacting a Model Act for Universities. The AIFUCTO opposed the move to commercialise and corporatise higher education in the country and organised a massive dharna at Allahabad, the constituency of the then HRD minister, which step contributed in some measure to his defeat in the elections held in 2004.
Arjun Singh was more positive in his approach than his predecessor and held several rounds of discussion with AIFUCTO leadership. The cabinet note which is now under the consideration of the government of India is the result of his initiative to resolve the long pending demands of AIFUCTO. Though AIFUCTO was not completely satisfied with the proposals in the note, it accepted the proposals in the spirit of give and take. But the finance ministry with its agenda of dismantling the public-funded higher education raised objections to the cabinet note. The alibi was financial constraints. The AIFUCTO leaders informed the prime minister that the financial commitment was only about Rs 200 crore, which should not deter the government of India from implementing its agreement with the teachers. The court orders directing the government to implement some of the demands were also brought to the notice of the PM.
In a memorandum submitted to the prime minister AIFUCTO expressed its solidarity with the governments’ proposal to implement reservation for the OBCs in central government institutions and to simultaneously raise the number of seats so that the students in the general category would not be put to hardship. The AIFUCTO condemned the negative recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission in this regard. The AIFUCTO also wanted the UPA government to enhance its budgetary allocation in education drastically so that the NCMP promise of investing 6 per cent of the GDP in education could be fulfilled within the next few years. Only such increased allocation can resolve the problems of access and equity in higher education, without which the country cannot march towards the realisation of its dream of “growth with equity”. The ongoing privatisation and commercialisation of education through private universities and the move to implement the WTO regime of trade in educational services would impact the qualitative and quantitative dimensions of higher education negatively, AIFUCTO stated in its memorandum. The AIFUCTO also drew the attention of the prime minister to the dichotomy in the recommendations made by the CABE Committee reports on Autonony and Financing of Higher Education. While the CABE report on Autonomy has recommended market reforms in higher education, the CABE report on Financing has recommended more public investment and public control in higher education institutions. AIFUCTO requested the prime minister to take immediate steps for the implementation of the egalitarian recommendations in the CABE report on Financing. AIFUCTO urged the PM to initiate steps for greater democratisation of the governance of higher education institutions.
The delegation which met the prime minister at his office in the Parliament House comprised of AIFUCTO president Professor Thomas Joseph, general secretary Dr V K Tewari, treasurer Dr Nikhil Desai, national secretaries Professors Sudhakar Mankar and Ashok Burman, vice president Professor Vazir Singh Nehra and president of FEDCUTA, Dr Amar Deo Sharma.