Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Reserve Armies of Academic Labour


By Rajesh Sharma


     Another academic year is about to begin. Advertisements for faculty positions are popping out of newspaper pages.  The universal promise is of salary ‘as per the UGC/State Government/University norms’. The opening gambit of a nearly universal ritual of deceit and betrayal!
              As teaching for the last academic year ended, a former student who is now an academic journey-woman called me one evening. ‘I have been told not to come from tomorrow. At 5.30 p.m. we were handed letters that our services were no longer required. All fifteen of us have been suddenly dropped as if into the seas. We worked for eight months, usually giving six or seven lectures a day. We were still waiting to receive our appointment letters…. And they did not even bother to pay the one month salary they have been withholding as security since we joined.’
              This is the standard experience of the young people who respond to the calling of education with dreams in the eyes.
              Yesterday a young man who has recently passed the UGC’s mandatory National Eligibility Test rang up to tell he had been asked to work on less than half the current salary of a college teacher. He is expected to teach postgraduate courses which the college plans to launch this year.
              On the other hand, I often have to hear the laments of college principals and managers. ‘We do not get good faculty, even qualified faculty.’
         You too must have witnessed ostentatious luxury of the worst taste in offices of the managerial cadre in Punjab’s colleges. Many enterprising souls prowling around in the jungle of education swear they are out to serve the people, adding sometimes that of course one cannot do that without making money. Their chauffeur-driven SUVs almost embody their large hearts. Yet when it comes to paying the teachers, these large-hearted people often act as robbers and thieves.
            Why does such a widespread crime against teachers go on unchecked? Why are no arrangements made to protect the defenseless teachers against greed’s depredations? Why do governments and universities invariably fail to uphold the rule of law?
             Who benefits if the young educated people lose faith in the rule of law and confidence in themselves? Who gains if teachers walk into their classes distressed and frustrated? What character does an aspiring knowledge society acquire if its educators cannot even afford to buy books?
  ‘Compromise and shut up!’ is indeed a fine mantra for initiation into the adventures of thought. A smart, safe route for the freedom of thought and expression to self-abrogate. Education for democracy, is it?
           They tell lies who say education is expanding. Business is expanding in the name of education. Profits alone matter, what if the Mephistophilean profiteers trade in human souls? The expanding education will bring ever more people offering their labour into the bazaars of education, giving even greater leverage to the unscrupulous merchants of souls. The difference between lawful remuneration and actual remuneration will grow. Cheaper academic labour will mean more degree-dispensing factories and, eventually, nothing by way of education.
      But at some point in the future the loop will – it has to – snap. After all, the world, the countries, even the markets need thinking, confident people.
          By that time, however, it will be too late to ask those who are responsible, ‘Why the hell did you do it?’

9 comments:

Ambuj Sharma said...

What you have written most of us have suffered and even still suffering.... The Adhoc Staff is the most unorganized sector and the moment they try to organize themselves, they are shown the doors. The Panjab State Teachers Union most of the times are busy with their own issues. We wish the University authorities should hear what you have written.....
in solidarity

Badri Raina said...

the shameful long and short of the matter; written from penetrating concern and with ideological clarity;
congrats.... circulating.

Swaraj Raj said...

There has been no recruitment of teachers on permanent basis for govt colleges in the last many years. NET clear and PhD holders are recruited as guest faculty and paid peanuts. There is something called HEIS - a very noble sounding Higher Education Institutes Society in each govt college. It runs many new courses like BBA, BCom Professional, BBA, BSc Biotech and so on and so forth. The students are charged about Eighteen thousand rupees by way of fees. It hires teachers on contract only. There's no provision for permanent faculty. This is a novel method of privatizing education.
The situation is much more alarming in private institutions. The teaching faculty are treated like workers in an industry. That a higher education institution is a place for generation of new ideas is something that has been given a go by.
The kind of exploitation to which the most learned sections of our society are subjected, is simply shocking.
Why can't the higher judiciary treat reports of exploitation of teachers which are published in newspapers quite frequently as PIL is quite baffling. With people acquiescing without any resistance and the virtually non-existent union activity, education scene appears very grim. The mandarins who decide what constitutes education are hand in glove with sweet sellers and industrialists (the new education providers who have entered education industry) who are making hay while the sun is shining on the commerce-education horizon.

Loveleen Parmar said...

Commercialisation of Education has rendered it soul less. Education today is only a degree sans knowledge. The essence has been lost.. Everybody is to be blamed including me if we donot offer what is required.

Damanjit Sandhu said...

that's the plight of most of newcomers in this profession! not only their is exploitation in being paid, but the treatment the college principals mete out to the contact/ adhoc faculty is derogatory. the principals dont even offer a chair to the freshers.

Divneet V. said...

Going through the same... !

Aman Smagh Mithri said...

Exactly.....the guiding motto is 'admission lai k aao n job pao'.....'jitni zeyada admissions le k aaoge utna increment dainge.'

M.L.Raina said...


You can expect this state of affairs when' you recklessly open new colleges and announce prestigious courses of study without doing any homework as to their viability.The college managements act like academic gaulitiers riding roughshod over a teacher's dignity.The university bodies watch helplessly as their prescribed norms are treated as so much sawdust.
I think your salvo echoes in the catacombs of power and policy. I don't expect much from supine heads of universities who only occasionally issue firmans and have no courage to have them obeyed.

aman sharma said...

Sir, your brilliant write-up very succinctly bespeaks of the highly depressing state of affairs prevalent in the education sector today. Our young friends who graduate from colleges and universities with dreams in their eyes and hopes for a bright future often end up being disillusioned and frustrated by the rampant exploitation in the education sector. The part-time/guest faculty culture is criminally playing havoc with the careers of the young and talented people. Amidst this seemingly dark scenario, we need many more voices of courage and sanity. Thanks.