Bengal governor wants to meet JU teachers over pay hike demands
Adding a new twist to his uneasy relations with Jadavpur University (JU), of which he is also the Chancellor, Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has invited the representatives of Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association (JUTA) to a meeting to discuss their demand of implementation of the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) pay scale.
The pay scale was recommended two years ago and JUTA along with two other teachers’ bodies has threatened a two-day cease work if the state government refuses to yield.
Ruling Trinamool Congress leaders have already criticised Dhankhar for his role concerning JU and various other aspects of the state administration.
On October 27, the governor telephoned JUTA general secretary Partha Pratim Roy and told him that he was aware of and sympathetic towards their demands of pay revision.
“The chancellor told me that he has seen news of our legitimate demand regarding the implementation of the new UGC pay scale. He is also aware of our proposed cease work programme on November 19 and 20 and our letter to the chief minister. The governor wanted to meet JUTA leadership. I told him that we can meet after we discuss the invitee at JUTA’s meeting,” Roy said.
Though JUTA is an apolitical organisation of all teachers of JU, its leadership has traditionally been dominated by Left-leaning teachers. Its executive committee is scheduled to meet on November 1.
JUTA has been supported in its demands by West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association and All Bengal University Teachers’ Association.
On October 26, in a letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, JUTA wrote that the UGC published the new pay scales for college and university teachers in November 2017, and that all central universities have implemented it. Only four states (Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab and West Bengal) universities have not done so yet, claimed JUTA.
Referring to the recent QS Global university rankings, JUTA office bearers argued that the state’s college university teachers “are now among the lowest-paid in the country”, despite Bengal being home to the two highest-ranking state-run universities in India – JU and the Calcutta University.
“The state of affairs is not only demoralising for teachers but makes it near-impossible to attract the best talents from across the nation to teach in West Bengal’s institutions of higher education,” read the letter.
The ruling Trinamool Congress has refused to comment on the Governor’s plans to meet JU teachers.
“We will not comment,” said a senior minister who did not wish to be named. “The chief minister will deal with the issue.”
Last week, education minister and TMC spokesperson Partha Chatterjee had told journalists that he would not offer comments on the Governor’s statements or activities “on a daily basis”. The party had decided to ‘ignore’ Dhankhar.
“He (Dhankhar) keeps saying and doing things. It can’t be my responsibility to respond to whatever he says or does,” Chatterjee, the TMC secretary-general, had said
Sworn in on July 30, Dhankhar has already run into headline-grabbing controversies with the state government and the ruling party.
The first controversy was on September 19 when the governor rushed to JU to rescue Union minister Babul Supriyo from the clutches of agitating students. While Dhankhar slammed vice-chancellor Suranjan Das, who preferred resigning to calling the police on campus, JUTA congratulated Das for his stand.
On October 18, Dhankhar took another unprecedented step of attending a meeting of the JU court that decides on the list of DLitt and DSc recipients.
During the meeting, Dhankhar expressed reservations about the list of recipients but later gave his consent after other members of the court, comprising mostly the members of JU’s teaching community, unanimously opposed his objections.
On October 22 he lashed out at the government accusing it of “unconstitutional behaviour” and imposing “censorship” after district officials refused to meet him during his tour to two districts.