Over 4,000 employees, including teachers, of all 55 permanent affiliated colleges under five Jharkhand universities, decided to mount pressure on the state government for constituent status by starting an indefinite fast outside Raj Bhavan in the capital on Thursday.
The agitation may affect matriculate and intermediate exams under Jharkhand Academic Council, scheduled to from February 21. Many colleges are supposed to be venues for the twin board exams.
The 55 affiliated colleges, whose employees are participating in the stir, comprise six from Ranchi University, 29 from Vinoba Bhave University, 12 from Sido Kanhu University, five from Nilamber Pitamber University and three from Kolhan University.
The fast comes after employees, who were on a pen-down strike since December 16, 2013, did not get positive response from the state.
State president of Sambadh Degree Mahavidhyalaya Mahasang, under which the staff have gathered, Narendra Kumar Singh said they were in no mood to budge unless their demands were met.
“We have one demand. Grant us constituent status so that we can get deficit funds from University Grants Commission and other sources,” Singh said.
He added that they had launched a similar agitation nearly two years back, after which the-then state government had announced in the Assembly that their demands would be accepted. A committee under the chairmanship of director, higher education, was set up by state HRD department to prepare a feasibility report.
Interestingly, the committee submitted its report in October last year, but HRD continues to keep mum.
Singh said most colleges of the state had permanent affiliation long before the state came into being. “For decades, we don’t have any salary structure and are living on meagre payments as our colleges are solely dependent on tuition fee. In other states, after five years of affiliation, governments give constituent status to colleges,” he said.
He added that once colleges were made constituent, funding from various sources would boost infrastructure. This apart, students would need to pay lower fee and staff would draw salaries as per norms.
A senior functionary of Ranchi University, however, said that lack of proper policies lay at the root of problems.
“This is due to lack of proper policy making. Besides the 55 permanent degree colleges, there are many cradles the government doesn’t even have proper figures of. They function a year, get closed and again start under a new name,” he said, requesting anonymity.
HRD’s higher education director D. N. Ojha, who was chairman of the committee formed to prepare the feasibility report,refused to comment. “We have given our report to government. I cannot reveal the contents. The ball is now in the government’s court,” said Ojha.
HRD secretary K. Vidyasagar’s phone could not be reached. Minister Geetashree Oraon said: “We are looking into the matter and consulting other experts. I believe that the report wasn’t up to the mark. These are policy matters that will have implications on state’s financial health, so nothing can be done in haste. As far as exams are concerned, we will appeal to protesters to call off the strike,” she signed off.
Jharkhand Academic Council, however, is going ahead with the exam schedule. “Exams will be held according to schedule unless we get a direction from government. From our end, we are prepared to start our exams from February 21,” said JAC secretary S. K. Roy.