The recommendations recently made by the UGC Pay Revision Committee (PRC) are both positive and innovative in many ways and to that extent the Committee headed by Prof G K Chadha should deservedly be paid kudos. The PRC has also accomplished its job within almost the given time frame— faster than its predecessors— at least to my knowledge. To its credit, it has addressed the issue of developmental inequities in the institutions of higher education, reviewed the implementation of the previous pay package across the country and formulated remedial strategies as well as viewed the professional scene in the context of ongoing processes of globalization. So, it is sufficiently futuristic too. However, the college and university teachers working in state universities, particularly in Bihar, will hesitate to greet the offerings with excited optimism. The reasons are not far to seek but, to begin with, let me extract the salient points of the recommendations.
The concept of a pay band, which means a much longer span of the scale than the ones granted earlier, with the incentive of grade pay differential, is a well-thought-out plan to contain the complaints of stagnation and at the same time reward academic achievements. In addition, the proposed creation of teaching positions of Senior Associate Professor by promotion under Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) in UG colleges and of Professor by direct recruitment in PG colleges, differing only in grade pay, extends the benefits of pay revision as well as motivates the urge to professional ambition in the larger segment of higher education. Also, as the recommendation 5.9.6 ( PRC online version) reads, Assistant Professors (selection grade)/ Readers without Ph.D. shall move, after they have reached the top of their scale, in the scale of senior Reader, i.e., Senior Associate Professor, with their own grade pay of Rs 8000, not the grade pay of Senior Associate Professor. In other words, both slow and fast channels of advancement are offered with more incentives and serious scrutiny at the entry level so that teaching profession can attract talent at least on par with corporate sector, private/foreign universities, and civil service. Further, the PRC has also proposed the position of Adjunct Professors to ensure mobility between university and industry/corporate houses and that of Concurrent Professors to forge fruitful academic linkages across the universities. This new avenue for lateral movement of the faculty will materialize only when the universities become more and more flexible in hunting talent. The Ph.D. guidelines outlined in the PRC report are a welcome measure to sort out the mess in this area. The instructions require doctoral research to be operated within the ambit of available specializations in the faculty, course work, minimum score in the course work evaluation, UGC depository whereby the soft copy of the research can be posted on the INFLIBNET, to make it accessible to all and to avoid piracy and plagiarism.
On its downside, the PRC seems to have bitten off more than it can chew by making some impractical proposals. The proposal of setting apart 15 per cent of an institution’s faculty strength as “floating position” to make it open-ended to fill unspecified vacancies is notably unrealistic when most of our universities are having to cope with crushing faculty shortage. Besides, the trifurcation of professor’s rank is unlikely to work, particularly at the level of Professors of Eminence, along the desired lines. It will promote patron-client network as is the case of appointing vice-chancellors. The proposed position of Senior Professor, too, has unsound eligibility criteria. Given the pace of work in our universities many aspirants just may not have time enough to seek this position. The reward is not tempting either. To make it more competitive and professionally challenging, the position of Senior Position should be filled by direct recruitment and should be open to senior Readers/ Associate Professors and Professors – incumbents within the same pay band—with the minimum prescribed qualification. Additional increments and the enhanced grade pay will make it attractive and provide a channel for career mobility to college teachers too.
Added to the enhanced pay scales and compensatory allowances are the proposed emoluments such as academic allowance, children’s education allowance, revised ex-gratia and gratuity package, medical insurance with 30% of the premium to be contributed by the teachers, augmented welfare measures like service length of 20 years for full retirement benefits, and other initiatives and provisions to make teaching profession a worthwhile career. To top up the package, the PRC has also recommended that the age of retirement should be 65 years across the board and throughout the country with avenues of selective re-employment up to the age of 70. For the first time, the UGC will pick up the bill for the benefits of pay revision for five years and insists that the recommendations be implemented from the same date, i.e., 01-01-1996 and various allowances other than DA from 01-9-2008. If the states implement the new scales as a whole, then an assessment will be made for further support to the tune of fifty per cent for another five years.
It is indeed a path-breaking attempt to bail out the universities from the fiscal constraints and gear up the professional drive in a fruitful direction. But will the initiatives go that far? While the Central universities and some excellent, well-run colleges and state universities have the carrying capacity to go ahead with the recommendations, the universities of Bihar will find it difficult to work out the new provisions. The ground realities are too depressing to allow any room for optimism.
Let us examine the possibilities. In no university of the State have the teaching positions been filled by direct recruitment for about twenty years. The universities just haven’t requisite faculty in place to handle the selection/promotion process. The provision of Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) created by the UGC in 1996 is still in limbo. Neither the State HRD ministry nor the Vice-chancellors have shown any interest to bring it into a functional mode. The credentials of MPS (Merit Promotion Scheme) and time-bound promotees are suspect because the scrutiny process has been lax and pliable. At any rate, their academic profile does not do the profession proud. Worse, the schemes have not been even-handed in that many claimants are still waiting their turn. The university- level selection committees are not yet fully formed. The current vacant positions and the ones to be created are not yet updated and quantified. How will the universities claim the UGC funding for additional posts of Professors in PG Colleges and Senior Professors in university departments?
Further, the proposed post of Senior Associate Professor is to be filled by promotion under CAS and the process thereof to be handled by colleges. It is unlikely to get going simply because 80 percent of the colleges are without regular Principals. The mechanism for recruitment is there but the universities are infamously sluggish, their functionaries weak-willed or mere time-servers. The vice-chancellors who are well-meaning are getting little support from the state government in their efforts to turn around the mess in these universities. The new universities created as far back as 1992 are still infra-structurally unsound in the absence of minimum supporting staff and physical facilities. The sanction of administrative staff is still awaited in these universities even as 17 years have elapsed since their establishment. This is plain lackadaisical approach to growth acceleration.
So, under the unlikely scenario implementation of the UGC recommendations seems to be a distant possibility in Bihar. Unless the State HRD ministry and the universities clear the decks in a concerted way and religiously redress the deficiencies within a deadline, the PRC proposals won’t see the light of day. It is high time the universities counted their quality gaps and repaired the supply side.
* ( The writer teaches English in D.S. College, Katihar)