Uma Kale, a double-doctorate Marathi professor makes seven ‘dabbas’ for her customers in the morning before heading for classes at a prestigious college in the city where she has been teaching for five years now. In the evening, after work, she stands at a bhel and pani puri stall which she runs with a co-operative. Cooking is not her hobby, she does it to make ends meet.
Despite 12 years of experience, and having taught previously at Garware College, Uma is not a permanent recruit and works at a clock-hourly basis (CHB), a system where teachers are employed by institutes on a ten-month contract and are paid on an hourly basis. They receive Rs 900 for one hour of teaching and no pay for vacation, exam-time or any other holidays.
On Thursday, she was among those who sat in protest outside the Directorate of Higher Education demanding immediate recruitment to fill at least 10,000 posts of Assistant Professor which are vacant in the state. A group of PhD-holding, NET-qualified college professors submitted a letter to the joint director demanding regular recruitments for all vacant posts, increase in CHB pay and regular payment, among other demands.
Sandeep Pathrikar, president of Maharashtra New Professors Association said, “We (CHB teachers) have not been paid for the last three months. We are overworked and underpaid. UGC guidelines say CHB teachers should be paid Rs 1,500 per hour but the rate, after much struggle for increase, is still Rs 900. And in reality we get only Rs 750 for each lecture because lectures in most institutes are 50 minutes long.”
Meanwhile the Joint Director of Higher Education, Prakash Bachhav said, “We have regularly disbursed monthly salaries of CHB teachers along with those of regular teachers, so there is certainly no delay from our end. Some colleges may have not applied for approval or there could be discrepancies at the end of the institutes. We have been sending payments regularly.”
The teachers, who teach both graduate and post-graduate students, drew attention to the fact that the number of vacant posts only increases every year, with at least 1,500 senior professors retiring each year.
Pathrikar added, “Who is accountable for the immense loss to students due to this? With lack of regular teachers, whom should they turn to for guidance or queries in between classes? Due to a handful of new recruitments for full-time posts, students and research at institutes suffer.”
Government resolutions prohibit them from examination related work and other kinds of policy implementation work. But the dire shortage of regular professors in Maharashtra has meant that the burden of paper-setting and evaluation to NEP (National Education Policy) implementation, falls to them.
Yet, they continue to put in extra hours as complaints could mean non-renewal of their contract by the college after the ten-month tenure.
Despite at least 10,000 vacancies and a huge chunk of employed and unemployed teachers vying for them, as many as 3,580 posts opened by the government in November 2018 have not been filled even today.
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As of November 2021, as many as 2,088 still remained vacant. Of these, 451 posts were transferred to autonomous colleges and the process for 1,637 posts is yet to be completed. As per government officials, the pandemic, changes in roster due to updated reservation policy and “delays caused by internal disturbances within college managements” have caused this delay.
With this, many have no option but to work under the CHB system.
“We have not been paid for the last three months,” said Harish Bhailume, a CHB professor at a college in Ahmednagar with ten years of experience. “It is difficult to borrow money from people because most of them treat teachers with such respect, and believe that we have a stable and secure job. That is simply not true anymore. Most of the time, our payments are delayed by months. Some of us work part-time as tea-sellers, some as waiters in hotels, whenever we can manage, after spending at least eight to ten hours in college.”