5th September was declared Teachers Day – a day when this vocation should be celebrated and acknowledged throughout the country for its invaluable contribution to society. However, in our country, the profession of teaching has been devalued over the years. In the first place, the majority of teachers are not paid a living wage. Further, their positions are not secure and their working conditions are terrible. Vacancies in permanent posts are not filled promptly with teachers under secured tenure; rather, various temporary designations such as “guest” teachers have been created and appointees are expected to carry out the full work-load of a teacher but paid like trainees or interns. These conditions have only worsened with the increasing domination of private managements over school and college education.
On the one hand teachers are not provided with the required training or the classroom infrastructure that will enable them to provide quality and dedicated service. On the other, they are unjustly maligned for several ills of the education system.
It is in this context, that on 5th September 2018, thousands of teachers in universities and colleges across the country wore black bands/badges at the call of Federation of Central Universities' Teachers' Association (FEDCUTA). This time they were protesting against the New Pension Scheme (NPS) and demanding regularization of guest faculty.
Several teachers' associations like the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA), Jamia Teachers' Association (JTA), Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Association (JNUTA), Assam University Teachers' Association (AUTA) and the Aligarh Muslim University Teachers' Association (AMUTA) showed unanimous support for and solidarity with the FEDCUTA call.
The teachers’ associations point out that year after year, different teachers' associations like the FEDCUTA and the DUTA have staged protests and submitted memorandums to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) against the negative implications of the New Pension Scheme, ever since its inception in 2004,. According to the teachers, the NPS will have an undesirable impact on those who have been recruited on or after 1.1.2004. The investment of the accumulated contributions in the share market without the agreement of the subscribers have exposed NPS to the vicissitudes of the share market; further, subscribers are only able to withdraw 60% of the contribution at the time of retirement. The situation is even worse for those who retire before 60 years of age. Such employees will be able to withdraw only 20% of their contribution and have to necessarily use the rest to buy annuities. Further, for all types of employees, 60% of the withdrawal amount will be taxable at the time of retirement.
There are several other issues that have been raised by the teachers that continue to be ignored by the MHRD. These include the basis of promotions and the lack of parity of librarians and academic staff like instructors and programmers with teachers. The allowances due as per the 7th Pay Commission have not been declared yet. Teachers strongly critisized NPS and demanded anomalies to be removed in appointments and promotions.
In Kashmir, teachers assembled at Sher-e-Kashmir Park and staged a protest to press for implementation of the 7th pay commission benefits.
On the call given by Punjab Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation, thousands of teachers working in state universities, 60 government colleges in Punjab, and 160 non-government colleges of Punjab and Chandigarh proceeded on mass casual leave, and held a rally in the city on the occasion of Teachers' Day, to protest against the policies on higher education across India and in the state.
Besides college and university teachers, over 60,000 schools across the country observed a black day on 5th September in protest of alleged discriminatory policies against safety of teachers and principals.
According to a report from National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), schools from Delhi, UP, MP, Bihar, Assam, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu participated in a protest demanding that teachers’ safety be assured. It is reported that NISA and all its member associations have sent a representation to the Prime Minister to bring Teachers Safety Act and reform the education system which is not safe for teachers.
In Odisha too, about 60000 teachers of 5500 schools observed Sep 5 Teachers’ Day as Black Day to press for the fulfillment of their demands for better pay and service benefits. The strike was spearheaded by the Orissa School and College Teachers and Employees United Forum. The teachers have been demonstrating for the last 20 days in Bhubaneshwar.