The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Five or six, teachers in a fix

It’s a six-day week for teachers of government-run colleges. But they can also work for five days if they want.

This strange arrangement is supposed to be in effect in all colleges, including reputed ones like Presidency, Maulana Azad, Lady Brabourne and Bethune, thanks to a curiously-phrased circular issued by the higher education department after some persistent lobbying by a pro-CPM teachers’ group.

Though higher education department officials claim there is nothing wrong with the circular, teachers explain that the word-play in the circular allows them to attend college for five days (as before).

The clause that has allowed the government to circumvent rules reads: “Teachers in government colleges shall be on duty on all working days of the college. They may, however, devote not more than one day every week for library, laboratory, research and such work as is directly connected with their academic duties.”

Effectively, it implies that teachers can — as they did before — have a five-day week. Issued while the colleges were on pre-examination vacation, the circular was kept in abeyance for the entire May-June period — when various university examinations were conducted — and brought into effect last week.

But problems have started cropping up even with this apparently life-made-easy order. Presidency College, for one, is yet to decide on the order, not knowing how to implement it.

On July 2, departmental heads of Presidency College made it clear to principal Amitava Chatterjee that they do not want to be in charge of the attendance roster.

Their logic, with which the principal agreed, is: “This is primarily an administrative job and only the administrative head of a college (its principal or officer-in-charge) can handle this.”

Another proposal that was rejected was to allow teachers to handle their individual rosters. But most teachers of Presidency felt that this would expose the new directive to “malpractices”.

Teachers’ organisations, too, say the implementation is not uniform in colleges. “One college, for instance, lets the rosters be in the staff-room, while another keeps them in the principal’s room,” said All-Bengal State Government College Teachers’ Association general secretary Pradip Datta.

“The new circular is actually a back-door attempt at enforcing discipline,” said Nationalist Democratic Teachers’ Association College and University Cell general secretary Benoy Bhushan Chakraborty.

A senior higher education department official, however, explained these as “teething problems”. “Things will be regularised soon,” he asserted.

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