A geology professor on lien who had wanted to quit the West Bengal Education Service so that he could stay back at Presidency University has been told he can’t, the caveat coming with a transfer order barely a month before his retirement.
Harendranath Bhattacharya, a former general secretary of the CPM-led Government College Teachers’ Association, has been asked to join Durgapur Government College “with immediate effect”.
Since the transfer order hadn’t reached Presidency until Sunday, there is a likelihood of Bhattacharya working in Durgapur Government College for less than a month before he retires from service on September 30.
The timing of the transfer has not only raised questions about the rationale behind it but also triggered speculation about what the higher education department would do with 34 other teachers who are ready to quit the state education service to retain their jobs at Presidency.
“The higher education department sat on Bhattacharya’s application for a year. Now, a month ahead of his retirement, they are asking him to go to Durgapur, which is kind of strange,” a colleague of the geology professor said on condition of anonymity.
For Bhattacharya, who was a member of the Left Front-appointed Presidency University Council in 2010, the transfer means losing out on the chance of extended employment.
Professors at all state universities can work till the age of 65 at the discretion of the governing councils of these institutions.
Bhattacharya, a former head of the department of geology at the erstwhile Presidency College, had joined the university in July 2012 on lien for a year. He was “confirmed” in service at Presidency University in mid-2013, following which he sought permission to quit the state education service.
Bhattacharya didn’t take calls from Metro while vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia said last week that she hadn’t received his transfer order.
Lohia had appealed to the higher education department not to transfer anyone out of Presidency after former registrar Prabir Dasgupta was shifted out.
Dasgupta too had asked for permission to quit the state education service following confirmation of his service at the university, only to be transferred to Durgapur Government College.
Of the 40 teachers who had joined Presidency University from the erstwhile Presidency College and other government institutions, only five have so far been allowed to quit the state education service and stay put on the College Street campus. Three of these teachers are from the economics department and two from the physics department.
“The state government has struck down Bhattacharya’s plea by citing a shortage of teachers in government colleges. Then why did it allow him to join the university in the first place?” said an assistant professor whose application is pending with the higher education department.
“This is unfair. If we are qualified to teach in a university, we should be allowed to do so.”
Some of the teachers are seeking legal opinion on whether the higher education department can prevent someone from quitting the state education service.
Presidency was a government college before becoming a unitary university in 2011. After the upgrade, 40 of the 70-plus teachers of the erstwhile Presidency College and other government colleges were allowed to join the College Street institution on the basis of a screening test. The probation period for these teachers was a year.
Bhattacharya had been part of the meeting of the erstwhile Presidency College governing council in October 2009 that endorsed the proposal to upgrade the institution to a unitary university.