The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Not in CPM' Then 62 too old

New Delhi, May 2: The CPM believes the old must make way for the new — as long as one isn’t talking about its own leaders.

The party, whose highest echelons are packed with people in their 80s and 90s, is dead against the retirement age for teachers being raised from 62 years to 65 in centrally funded educational institutions.

The Marxists’ argument is, the move will rob the country’s vast army of “unemployed and qualified” youth of job opportunities.

“This virtually amounts to a ban on recruitment in teaching posts,” said CPM Rajya Sabha member Brinda Karat, member of the parliamentary committee on human resource development.

Brinda said her party would oppose the decision, cleared by the Union cabinet, in Parliament.

When it comes to its own leaders, though, the CPM follows a different policy. Year after year, in the 1990s, the party had pleaded with the then octogenarian Jyoti Basu not to give up his chief minister’s chair although he was finding it difficult to cope with the job’s pressures.

Basu, now 93 and ailing, continues to be in the politburo as do his contemporary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and the 80-plus V. Achuthanandan. Former Kerala chief minister E.K. Nayanar was a politburo member till his death at 86.

The other members of the House panel agree with Brinda. “The decision will discourage bright young people to come to higher education,” the committee’s report says.

The government move will benefit over 20,000 teachers. The HRD ministry has asked the states — who employ a far higher number of teachers — to follow suit. The House panel’s stand, however, may deter some of the states.

One reason behind the Centre’s decision is the shortage of qualified young teachers. The Other Backward Classes quota will lead to a 54 per cent seat hike at a time there is a 30 per cent vacancy in central universities.

“Let the Centre grant short-term extensions for specialised courses. There is no need for a blanket rise in retirement age,” Brinda said.

Experts argue that with more and more educational institutions coming up, standards will fall unless “experienced” faculty are retained.

Besides, they say, 62 is too low a retirement age for people engaged mainly in brainwork.

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