Not Waiting for Thursday …
The Government has compelled teachers to resort to the extreme action of indefinite strike from 15 December 2008 to demand announcement of its decision on pay revision of teachers. It is time to learn from the mistakes of not following up the massive demonstration on 5 November 2008 with more action and well mobilized meetings of the Staff Associations and the General Body. That would have sent a strong warning to the Government. But what makes DUTA a strong union is its tradition of not getting stuck in the past and looking to the future. Teachers have time and again shown the determination to remain united in pursuing a better future. It is time therefore that all efforts are made to bring every teacher into the agitation we have decided to start.
We heard that the 5th of every month is a good day for education since 5 September is Teachers’ Day and that our Government seeks to transform our society into a knowledge society. We heard that elections to a few state assemblies tied the hands of the Government. We saw that the Government revised the pay of other employees during the same period. We were told that the Cabinet meets every Thursday and we have to wait for it to meet. We learnt that yet another meeting was scheduled for Thursday, 11 December 2008. We were told that everyone from the UPA Chairperson to the MHRD joint secretary are concerned about us and assure us of a just and “maximised” treatment. We were told that the UGC accepted our critique of the Chaddha Committee report in its recommendations. We do not know however what the UGC has recommended, nor what changes the Government is planning. We have also learnt that something called an Empowered Committee has sealed its deliberations long back. We are done with state elections, yet the Cabinet still has not acted.
How should the struggle be conducted?
The reputation of the DUTA has been based on its ability to articulate a justified set of demands, critically evaluate policy proposals and draw public attention through arguments and action to the adverse effects of government policy on higher education. This tradition must be kept alive. It is in this context that the DTF wishes to assess the present situation and share its views about the future course of action.
An opportune moment
The present pay revision provides us a historic opportunity and places on us an onerous responsibility to secure just improvements in pay scales and service conditions for the following reasons:
- The UGC had accepted our argument during the last pay revision that unless every category of teachers are upgraded to a higher scale and also given three assured promotions, we would fall behind the Group B services.
- The Sixth CPC has upgraded three sections of employees – constables, nurses and school teachers – breaking with the previous equivalence with other services. The same logic demands that teachers in higher education are given at least what has been sought in the DUTA memorandum.
Is the delay due to the bureaucracy or the Government?
Nothing could be more erroneous than merely blaming the bureaucracy for all the problems:
- The Government is responsible for the delay in initiating the pay revision process.
- The delay is a telling commentary on the Government’s commitment to higher education.
- It suggests a lack of political will to meet our just demands.
- It is based on the calculation that teachers would not press too much for fear of further delay in pay revision.
It is time to turn the tide
The DUTA leadership made the mistake of believing the Government and suspended action programmes and opinion building after the march to Parliament on 5th November. We are now forced into drastic action having lost time due to earlier inaction. It is our responsibility, however, to act responsibly and decisively. The aim should not be limited to forcing the Government to announce but to make it listen to reason and concede our demands. It is time we acted as one and acted with determination. It is time we participated in large numbers like we did a month ago and drew public attention to the unreasonable position of the Government.
It is also worth remembering that the more broad-based our agitation becomes, the better would be the chances for securing our demands. Instead of rhetorically dismissing all other sections of teachers in the country, we should urge them to join the struggle for a better deal for the teaching community. We should hope for and be alert to the possibility of a countrywide agitation which would maximize the pressure on the Government.
A decisive batte can be fought only when we act responsibly
It goes without saying that an onerous responsibility lies with the DUTA leadership. We urge the leadership to single-mindedly draw every teacher into common action. It will succeed in doing so if it is willing to listen to and discuss differing views that some teachers and Staff Associations may have on the mode of agitation or its timing. The unfortunate incident at the GBM on 12 December 2008 of not allowing some members to express their views is a mistake to learn from. And the sooner we learn, the stronger would be the DUTA.
We must ensure the resolution of crucial demands crucial demands
The other responsibility is to stick to the set of demands we have made.
- We have sought critical changes in the PRC recommendations such as continuance of the existing 4 pay scales structure, Grade Pay of at least 7600 for Lecturers in Senior Scale, Pay Band 4 for all teachers in Readers’ grade with not less than the minimum Grade Pay of 8700 in the Pay Band, an assured third promotion till Professor’s grade for all teachers, parity for librarians and other academic staff with teachers in all respects, rejecting linkage of student and peer evaluation for promotion and increments and rejecting the dual increment scheme. In fact it should be pointed out that even with 7600 as Grade Pay, all Lecturers would have already crossed the associated pay much before they are eligible for promotion and would get only one increment by way of promotion.
- Equally crucial are the demands on which the PRC has made positive recommendations such as Grade Pay of 6600 for Lecturers with the increments recommended by the PRC, Grade Pay of at least 11000 for teachers in Professor’s grade, the option to switch from CPF to GPF, providing the existing assured pension scheme to teachers appointed since 1.1.2004 instead of the new ‘no-pension’ scheme, and implementation of promotional benefits of the last pay revision w.e.f. 1.1.96.
The struggle ahead will demand our collective unity and determination. It will also have to be carried into the AC and EC where Ordinances for the implementation of the new pay scales and service conditions will have to be framed. We appeal to teachers to elect the DTF team of activists who are committed to the fighting traditions of the DUTA.