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Agitation threat to state varsities

Non-teaching employees of constituent and affiliated colleges under five universities of Jharkhand have threatened to go on another round of protests as the government has failed to fulfil their long-standing demands despite several written assurances.

The agitation will kick off with the employees under the banner of Jharkhand Visvavidyalaya and Mahavidyalaya Karmachari Mahasangh staging a daylong fast outside HRD minister Geetashree Oraon’s Ranchi residence on Thursday. They will also protest in front of the chief minister’s residence and Raj Bhavan later on.

The demands aren’t new. The non-teaching staff have been clamouring for implementation of the 6th pay commission recommendations, pending promotions, UGC pay scale for librarians and assistant librarians, a hike in gratuity and increase in retirement age to 62, among other demands, for a long time.

Earlier in February, the Mahasangh had observed an indefinite strike across the state to mount pressure on the authorities. The protest was finally called off in May after the HRD department and Raj Bhavan assured them of speedy resolution of the issues within a month. However, nothing happened.

“The authorities concerned are making a fool of us. They have been making false claims and denying us our rights. No one’s ready to do anything for us,” said Shivji Tiwari, president of Jharkhand Visvavidyalaya and Mahavidyalaya Karmachari Mahasangh.

He added that on Thursday, all non-teaching employees across the state would join the strike in their respective places of work. Those in Ranchi will fast outside the HRD minister’s house.

“By the end of the day, we will decide our future course of action. But our intention is not to hamper classes. Those who want to take or attend classes will be free to do so, but non-teaching employees will not work on that day,” Tiwari added.

According to the Mahasangh president, they had been getting false assurances since 2007.

“Not once, but many times we were given written assurances with set datelines for fulfilling our demands. But ultimately, no concrete action was taken. Everywhere, university non-teaching employees are enjoying benefits guaranteed by the sixth pay panel, but it is still a dream in Jharkhand. In Bihar, the retirement age is 62 but here it is 60. UGC norms are openly violated in varsities here,” he said.

Though the daylong protest is not expected to hamper academic activities at the varsities in a major way, the situation will turn difficult if the association decides to launch another phase of indefinite strike as examinations are lined up in the coming months.