Guwahati, Oct. 5: College teachers have asked Dispur to prepare an effective back-up for recording their attendance to cope with failure of the proposed biometric punching machines, especially during power cuts.
The government, on the other hand, has instructed college principals to strictly ensure that the teachers spent at least the stipulated five hours in college till the machines are installed in January next year.
Assam College Teachers’ Association general secretary Biswajit Bhuyan told The Telegraph that many colleges in the state had frequent power cuts all year round. He said colleges in places like Sadiya and Majuli could not even conduct science practical classes because of the power failures.
“Under such circumstances, we have clearly told the education department that an alternative backup system must put in place in such colleges so that the teachers are not marked absent owing to failure of the biometric punching machines during power cuts,” he said, adding that the lack of a backup would lead to chaos as the teachers would have to face salary cuts for no fault of theirs.
It was decided in a meeting between education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and the representatives of the association last month that IIT Guwahati would be entrusted with the responsibility of purchasing the best available biometric punching machines and installing these in colleges from January.
The education department had to convene the meeting after the teachers’ association adopted a formal resolution in August to reject the government decision to install electronic attendance recording devices and closed-circuit television cameras at the institutions for effective surveillance of their working.
“Though the association has now agreed to withdraw its resolution, the education department has asked the principals to ensure that the teachers spend at least five hours in college as stipulated by the UGC,” an education department source said.
Sources said since last month’s meeting between the education minister and the association was held in a very conducive atmosphere, the directorate of higher education had decided to withdraw its earlier order of asking the principals to furnish the list of names of teachers who were not using the biometric machines.
Bhuyan said experts and the government must certify the biometric machines so that these could not be manipulated to harass the teachers. “The association has also demanded that the government must come out with an order saying that the principals would have to submit statements of attendance recorded by the biometric machines whenever teachers required them for various purposes.”
He said a majority of college teachers were already spending the minimum UGC-stipulated duration in college. According to the UGC, a college teacher had to spend at least 40 hours every week in college for 30 weeks every year, Bhuyan said, adding that this was not mandatory for the remaining 22 weeks.
“The issue of spending minimum hours in colleges has been misinterpreted by the media and different organisations. Besides teaching, a teacher has to spend hours for research and examination related work. Since there has been confusion on the number of hours, the association has demanded that the government should come out with an official notification specifying the minimum hours at colleges,” he said.
The teachers’ association has also demanded that principals must also use the biometric machines if the government wanted to use it as a tool to make the entire teaching community accountable.
The government will also introduce the machines in schools towards the end of 2013.
Bhuyan said the association was waiting to receive a formal and official notification on the entire issue.