More than 50% vacancies of lecturers in all the 48 government colleges of Punjab are lying vacant as 900 teachers who are filling up for this huge gap as guest lecturers are on strike for the past 23 days in protest against paltry wages they are getting.
These guest lecturers, who have eventually become the backbone of the teaching faculties in these colleges, have been getting `7,000 a month, which is being paid from the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) funds of respective colleges.
Their main demand is disbursement of Rs 25,000 as salary package, as per the UGC guidelines besides immediate implementation of the December 2011 notification of the Punjab government to increase their package to `10,000. They also want that the practice of disbursement of salaries from the PTA funds be discontinued.
Such guest lecturers in neighbouring Haryana and Chandigarh were getting Rs 22,000 to Rs 25,000 as per the UGC guidelines, said Deepak Kaushal, a spokesman of the Punjab Guest Faculty Lecturers Association.
In December 2011, shortly before the 2012 assembly elections, the state government had notified to increase salary of guest lecturers up to Rs 10,000, with the Rs 3,000 hike to be disbursed from the state exchequer. Two years on, the government's notification is yet to be implemented.
The state government had even allocated a sum of Rs 1.8 crore last year to provide a Rs 3,000 hike in the salary but this increase was discontinued after a few months.
The trend of appointing guest lecturers at the college-level had begun in 2003 to fill the vacant posts and their strength has now crossed the regular lecturers.
Of the total 1,874 posts of lecturers in all 48 government colleges, 250 are on contract as 'part-time lecturers' with `40,000 monthly salary, 724 on regular posts getting as high as Rs 75,000 as per the 5th pay commission, and then there are 900 guests lecturers getting a paltry Rs 7,000.
The situation of these guest lecturers is like daily wager as they are paid as per the number of days of teaching and thus don't get paid during the vacations.
Punjab principal secretary, higher education, Roshan Sunkaria, when contacted, said he recently wrote to the director, public instructions (colleges) Gurdev Singh Ghuman to implement the December 2011 notification. The state finance department has given a nod for the same, he confirmed.
Sunkaria said the Punjab and Haryana high court had stayed the appointment of part-time lecturers in these colleges in 2002 in a case related to the PPSC scam.
A deputation of the guest lecturers led by Harvinder Singh met chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday in Sangrur and apprised him of their demands, mainly the implementation of the December 2011 notification of increasing the salary up to Rs 10,000.
Fate of students
With the exams approaching, a principal in a government college said he was worried about the fate of students in the absence of classes due to the teachers' strike.
"Let these government colleges be renamed PTA colleges," critic and academician GS Saraon had recently commented in his write-up on the state's education system in a Punjabi newspaper, highlighting that how the government was shying away from financing teachers' salaries as well and the misuse of PTA funds, which were meant for the development activities of colleges and pupils.