Saturday, December 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India




National Capital Region--Delhi

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Teachers’ strike: show them the door

Just think: hardly 140 teaching days in a year and even then the permanently employed teachers do not want to teach. Ask your children, the general feedback is that the teachers, even when present, hardly teach and are least inclined to teach. Most of the time students are told that they should prepare themselves. The career-conscious students either go for private tuitions or take shelter in private coaching centres.

Gone are the days, when the salaries of teachers used to be meagre. If one takes into account the working hours, they draw more salary than the I.A.S. officers or top executives of private companies who have to be on their toes at least for 14-15 hours a day for the whole week.

In the case of college teachers, the situation is still more startling. There are lecturers who do not take more than five lectures in a week and draw a salary of Rs 20,000 to 25,000 per month.

I admitted my daughter in a government college in Punjab for the B.Pharma degree for which the tuition fee is about Rs 45,000 per annum. There has not been any class after October 15. Even before that in the entire session, the classes were held for hardly 20-25 days in which the teachers either avoided teaching or taught for 10-15 minutes. The instructions to the students were: “Do it yourself”.

In contrast, look at the private coaching centres. The teachers there teach for seven to eight hours a day for half the salary. As soon as the first teacher leaves, the second teacher is immediately on the job.



 

All this leads one to ponder over the relevance of government and government aided educational institutions. Do we really need government colleges when our children cannot do without taking coaching from private coaching centres? Now when all the state governments are in the grip of a severe resource crunch, why should these teachers continue to get hefty salary packets for no work? In Punjab where the tuition fee even in the government colleges has been increased sharply, it is the parents who are bearing the brunt.

I don’t think the state governments will be able to meet the ever increasing salary bills after a decade or so. The entire system is feared to collapse. There is a limit to which people in the organised sector, who earn their bread by the sweat of the brow, can be made to bear the ever increasing burden of taxes, 90 per cent of which goes to meet the salary bills. By going in for a strike when the examinations are due, the teachers have indulged in an act which is nothing short of blackmail.

Instead of yielding to the demands of the teachers, prudence demands that all educational institutions are privatised. The buildings of government colleges and schools can be leased out to private parties. If today the prices of products and salaries in the industrial sector are driven by the market forces, let the salaries of teachers also be governed by the market forces. Nobody will grudge the high salaries of the teachers if these are earned. As a matter of fact, it is already happening. There are teachers in Delhi and Chandigarh who earn Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh per month for their jobs in private coaching centres. It is high time that all state governments stop making further recruitment. The present gap can be met by recruiting teachers on a contractual basis. The prime objective is to see that teachers reach the school and devote their time to coaching the students. It can be better met by keeping the teachers on an hourly payment basis as is done in the coaching centres rather than making permanent appointments.

But this can be done only if the ruling party in Punjab shuns its greed for under-the-table payments in recruitments. As the elections are drawing close, the recruitment drive in Punjab is also gaining momentum. For the post of Art & Craft Teacher, the running rate is Rs 4-5 lakh. If the service conditions of government teachers were really not so lucrative, as the striking teachers want to convey, why should the unemployed pay so hefty a bribe?

BHARTENDU SOOD, Chandigarh

They’re responsible: The current protest by the teachers of government-aided private colleges in Punjab and Chandigarh calls for introspection and some unpalatable comments.

In a way, teachers themselves are responsible for the situation in which the authorities stubbornly refuse to concede their very legitimate demands. Teachers over the years have squandered the privilege to speak and thus shape public discourse on matters vital to society. As a consequence, they have forfeited the right to be heard by people. Why should people sympathise with them over their demand for pension? After all, they are obviously affluent and number merely a few thousands.

Did they say anything for those more than two lakh inarticulate workers who lost work and the right to bread after a court order sealed and shut down the polluting industrial units in Delhi? Do they care to turn out a sentence in defence of the victims of injustice, inequity, corruption and judicial delays that ravage the lives of common women and men? Clearly then, their protest must sound inauthentic and narrowly selfish to the people. Complicity begets contempt, naturally.

Indeed, it is a measure of the loss of their prestige as the conscience-keepers of society that they are grateful to appear on TV shows as mere mouthpieces and adjuncts of political parties. Their only work has come to be to provide wordy fuel to debates launched by politicians. The current textbook controversy is an example: an academic issue that should have been taken up by academics and that should then have stirred a national political debate begins to be discussed the other way round.

What the teachers have to realise is that they are up against a new way of thinking that is spreading fast and secretly like cancer. It is supposed to be the key to unlock the gates of unequalled social prosperity through the engine of private initiative. Its operations, dimensions and implications, however, remain unexamined in their fine detail, as it is believed to be the only way available after the failure or frustration of all those experiments of the past.

This way of thinking currently enjoys great prestige in India since it has been imported from the “superior, white West.” The immediate struggle of the teachers, therefore, has to be imagined and comprehended globally.

The frustration by a derelict government of the legitimate demands is not the problem, but the symptom of a more insidious disease. The diagnosis and treatment require more than philistinism; these require earnest work of understanding. Society expects teachers to be more than just reading devices that transmit programmed signals; it expects them to be interpreters and creators.

DR RAJESH KUMAR SHARMA, Hoshiarpur

Ad hoc teachers: With the colleges remaining closed for scheduled and unscheduled vacations for half of the year and then the teachers rushing through the syllabus, the students’ education suffers badly. Last month the colleges were closed due to the national games for nearly three weeks. Was it necessary to do so? The current strike by the college teachers has resulted in yet another prolonged shutdown.

The colleges have a number of ad hoc teachers who do not join the strike. Why can’t teaching work, at least partially, go on with their help? And who knows the freshers may prove even better than the old holy cows.

Wg Cdr C. L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar

It’s misleading

Dr Darshan Singh Maini's article "The American crisis of understanding" (Dec 1) has a touch of scholarship, but only to confuse, hide and identify the genesis of the problem not in the right perspective.

His emphasis on "deprived and dispossessed" is far-fetched, misleading and far from facts, camouflaging the truth. The unleashing of a war on Afghanistan by America has not been an initiative and a choice, but simply a strong reaction to the unprecedented holocaust of September 11. Afghanistan is no match to the military might of America and its allies, and this fact was wisely assured by General Musharraf who used the situation statesmanly to his and his country's advantage. General Musharraf seems to have read Socrates, who centuries back debated with his citizens about “courage”. Some wise orator amongst the crowd said: “Courage is sticking to the post in the face of imminent danger". Socrates, using his wit and wisdom, would say: “could it not be steadfast judgement or using the brain with the presence of mind and shifting strategy without emotions.”All readily agreed to his simple reply.

Afghanistan’s ruling fundamentalists made a tactical blunder against the world opinion and petered out tamely, although they were given sufficient time and a long rope to come safely out of the volatile situation.

Now coming to the real cause of terrorism, it is none other than “religion” and its fundamentalism, and that has been the hub of activities shared and spread by the Taliban and Pakistan’s rulers in an effort to destabilise the peace in Kashmir. These were the same forces and the psyche that were behind the terrorism in Punjab.

People’s memory is short to the past happenings in which a Prime Minister was killed, the Golden Temple desecrated and damaged, and thousands of innocent Sikhs were massacred in Delhi and elsewhere as a result of the same fundamentalism and the psyche of religion.

Mr Maini is doing a disservice to the truth, at least in this context, and your esteemed paper helping him by providing space and support indirectly.

B. M. SINGH, Amritsar


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Emulate Israel

Israel too could have put up with the spate of suicidal attacks like we have been doing and got possibly a good character certificate of non-violence which, in any case, matters little and could have encouraged further escalation of terrorist attacks. Israel has taken harsh steps to send clear signals to the leadership to reign in the terrorists. We have to emulate Israel to overcome terrorism and herald lasting peace.

AIR CMDE RAGHBIR SINGH (retd), Pune

Why SAS Nagar?

I would like to bring it to your notice that "Mohali" is now internationally famous due to its world class PCA Cricket Stadium. But The Tribune refers it as SAS Nagar and not Mohali in news items. Since the Delhi edition of The Tribune is also now available, Mohali should be made popular with its original name only.

HARJINDER SINGH KAMBOJ, Mohali
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