Highly qualified TEQIP faculty members stare at uncertain future
The aggrieved faculty members underline that if they are let go, it would defeat the objectives of the National education Policy 2020, about which the PM speaks a lot
“The government gave a clarion call for systemic transformation and improvement in the quality of technical education in marginalized areas, we answered that call and gave our best years to the mission, some of us quit our high paying existing jobs to join, some of us left our families behind to go and stay in a remote area and help marginalized students become high achievers, but today we feel exploited as we stand to lose our jobs, and the government is passing the buck,” said Krishnanand Mishra, Assistant Professor, SGSITS Indore.
He is one of the 1500 Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP III) faculty members who are likely to lose their jobs as the prestigious TEQIP III project comes to an end in March 2021.
As part of TEQIP III, highly qualified faculty members were selected from IISc, IITs and NITs by a rigorous process. Candidates were shortlisted based upon their GATE scores followed by an interview. The government said that a total of 5,000 highly qualified persons applied for the recruitment, interviews were conducted in 20 NIT centres across India and 1255 candidates were selected who joined 53 colleges.
According to the faculty members National Herald spoke to, in another round of interviews additional personnel were appointed and the total number of faculty members now stand at 1,500. The initial appointment was a contractual one, at a pay scale similar to an Assistant Professor in a state or central institution, and the vision was that these teachers would be absorbed in permanent positions in their respective colleges at the end of the project.
The Project Implementation Plan (PIP) on page 95 states that, “…well-performing faculty hired using project funds will be retained post project, or else unchanged.” In pursuant to the PIP, Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed between each state and the Centre.
The three years project was scheduled to come to an end in September 2020. But seemingly, due to agitations by some of the faculty members in Bihar just ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, the project was extended till March 2021.
However, as the project comes to an end there are no signs of the faculty members being absorbed as per the MoU. They have been running from pillar to post, writing several emails to the PMO, Ministry of Education (formerly MHRD), NPIU and so on seeking a clarity on what would happen to their jobs post March 2021 but to no avail.
The Centre has passed the buck to states. In response to a grievance application to the Prime Minister from the TEQIP faculty of MLV Textile and Engineering College (MLVT), Bhilwara, the NPIU said, “NPIU/MHRD has made every effort to make States agree for the absorption of faculty in the post project period. However, it is the prerogative of the state to take the final decision.”
Dr. Dhirendra Kumar Sharma, Principal, MLVT told National Herald that the TEQIP faculty has improved the quality of education immensely, and it would be a great loss for the college if they leave, but it is difficult to absorb them due to financial crunch. “We are having difficulty paying salaries to the existing permanent faculty,” he said. “The problem can be solved only by the higher authorities either in State or Central Government,” he added.
Faculty members feel being in a limbo with neither the state nor the Centre taking the responsibility of their future. There is a sense of deep anguish, pain and fear of unemployment amidst the COVID pandemic.
“The institutions are treating us as outsiders, and not showing any interest in retaining us, even though we have significantly improved the quality of education in colleges which were severely understaffed, some did not have any faculty at all,” Krishnanand Mishra from SGSITS Indore told NH.
“I am a PhD holder from University of Allahabad where I was teaching as Guest Faculty. I quit that job, hometown and came to Port Blair with just one objective - to serve the nation,” said Saiyed Salim of B.R. Ambedkar Institute of Technology, Port Blair.
“There is just one engineering college in whole of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Enthusiastic students from small islands come in boats and ferries to study here. The college was understaffed, the percentage of pass outs was low. After I joined, it went up to 96 per cent. I have set up labs and equipment for students in these three years. Now, I am going to be on the road. It speaks volumes about the sad state of education in the nation,” he added with anguish.
“The PIP, MoU and the recruitment process were so transparent that we had a clear vision for our future. There was no doubt that we wouldn’t be absorbed. Now they are saying that the most they can do is keep us as ad hoc faculty paying a mere Rs. 25,000 per month or maybe on hourly basis. How is this acceptable?” asked Amarjeet Jhajharia, Assistant Professor, MLVT, Bhilwara.
“Rendering highly qualified faculty members jobless will fail the National Education Policy 2020 about which both the PM and Education Minister are always talking, but they do not have the time to meet us,” he said explaining how repeated attempts to get an audience with them have failed.
“According to an RTI response, NPIU has spent Rs.98,62,89,188 on Faculty Development Program and Training Programme on TEQIP faculty in India till August 2020. After making that kind of investment on us, how can they just let us go on the streets? Does that make any sense?” he further added.
The faculty members have now organized themselves under a common name, MHRD TEQIP Faculty (@MhrdTeqip on Twitter) and making several appeals to various departments, ministries, and members of the media. There is a TEQIP representative in each colleges and institutions and they are organizing support.
“The responsibility to solve this problem lies with the Centre. They cannot just pass the buck. They should have made a watertight MoU and should exert pressure on the States to honour the same,” said one of the Faculty members unwilling to be named.
National Herald could not reach the NPIU after several attempts to call the contact numbers provided on their website.