Protest pitch: Non-teaching employees during a dharna outside Ranchi University last week
Academic Jharkhand’s worst nightmare is on the verge of coming true.
Around 7,000 disgruntled non-teaching employees associated with the state’s five universities and their affiliated colleges have threatened to lock campuses and disrupt classes from Monday in the wake of “lukewarm response” from the HRD department to their demands.
This new dimension to the more than month-long protest over pay upgrade will affect several lakh students in some 150 colleges across the state if varsity authorities do not act — and act now.
While intermediate examinations got over on March 15, evaluations are expected to begin next week. Locked campuses will delay the same. Syllabus for degree and semester exams, admissions and issuing of migration certificates will also take a big hit.
Meanwhile, following Raj Bhavan orders, varsities have enforced a no-work-no-pay system for employees from Friday, but the protesters seem adamant.
Confirming their lockout plan, general secretary of Jharkhand Vishvavidyalaya and Mahavidyalaya Karamchari Mahasangh Shivji Tiwari said they could see no other way to draw attention of the HRD to their “legitimate demands”.
“Till now, we had not disrupted classes. But, we are left with no option. From tomorrow, we will sit outside every college and university. We will lock the gates to push our demands,” Tiwari said.
The phased ceasework of non-teaching employees of Ranchi, Kolhan, Vinoba Bhave, Nilamber-Pitamber and Sido-Kanhu Murmu universities began on February 9. Their three main demands are Sixth Pay Commission benefits, increase of the retirement age ceiling from 60 to 62 years and promotions twice a year.
On February 13, the HRD department notified Sixth Pay Commission benefits after governor Syed Ahmed approved the proposal at a cabinet meeting. But, the striking employees were not happy.
On March 11, they suspended administrative work at the varsities. Three days later, they launched demonstrations outside Raj Bhavan. And now, it is the turn of students to bear the brunt.
“Our demands are not new. Governments in 2007 and 2010 had given us in writing that the demands would be accepted,” Tiwari said.
He also pointed to flaws in the sixth pay panel notification approved by the governor.
“For instance, librarian and PT instructor posts have been clubbed in assistant category. According to the Fifth Pay Commission, their monthly remuneration should be Rs 8,500, but they like assistants receive Rs 5,000. So, automatically, they fall out of Sixth Pay Commission bracket, which would have otherwise entitled them to a salary of Rs 13,500.
“Unless the earlier anomalies are rectified, sixth pay panel benefits will continue to elude many,” Tiwari had told The Telegraph last Wednesday after a meeting with HRD mandarins failed.
State higher education director D.N. Ojha dubbed the protest illogical. “The sixth pay file was pending for three-four years. We understood that this demand was genuine and worked on it on priority basis. Now, if there are anomalies, they can be rectified. Protest is no way to solve problems,” Ojha said.
On retirement age, he said: “Increasing the cap to 62 years is a policy decision and the state administration has to take a call.”
HRD principal secretary D.K. Tiwari said universities had been directed to make arrangements to thwart class disruption attempts. “I spoke to all the five V-Cs (vice chancellors) and asked them to ensure that no student suffered because of a law and order problem,” he said.
The principal secretary added that the department was doing its best as far as pay benefits were concerned. “More than 80 per cent are getting fifth pay panel sops. The rest can approach varsities and resolve matters,” he said.
V-Cs, on the other hand, flayed the department for passing the buck.
Ranchi University V-C L.N. Bhagat admitted he had no plan to tackle the trouble, while Nilamber-Pitamber vice chancellor Faizal Ahmed said he would try to reason with the agitators. “I can only try to pacify them so that students are not affected,” he said.
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