Cambridge Assessment International Education

Maharashtra: Faculty predicament

September 17, 2020

Dipta Joshi (Mumbai)

Faculty of an estimated 62 engineering colleges in the Mumbai metropolitan region have not received their salaries since end-March when the BJP/NDA government at the Centre decreed a national lockdown of industry, business and all education institutions. According to data collected from 48 engineering colleges by the Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU) which represents 4,000 teachers from 350 colleges affiliated with Mumbai University (MU, estb.1857), only 13 colleges have made full and regular payment to teaching and non-teaching staff during the past six months. The defaulters list also names colleges which haven’t paid faculty salaries for over 12 months.

The Mumbai metropolitan region hosts 72 engineering colleges including 70 private colleges affiliated with MU with an aggregate enrolment of 1,00,000 students. Their annual tuition fees aggregate an estimated Rs.1,295 crore with the faculty and staff salaries bill totalling Rs.500 crore. Moreover it’s pertinent to note, since engineering colleges collect their annual tuition and other fees upfront in August/September, students’ fees for the recently concluded academic year were collected last year long before the national Covid-19-induced lockdown began.

Surprisingly far from accepting their fault, college managements are blaming the state government’s social welfare department. They claim the state’s social welfare ministry owes them “huge arrears” on account of scheduled tribe, scheduled caste and other backward castes (OBC) students admitted under (ST/SC/ OBC) scholarship schemes. It is this delay in release of funds owed to them that has resulted in their inability to pay faculty salaries of the past five months, they argue.

However, BUCTU leaders don’t buy this explanation. “Under government and MU rules, they should have set aside a third of their revenue towards salaries last August/September. Clearly they have not done so and are now trying to pin the blame on the government. Moreover, most defaulting colleges have not been submitting their accounts to MU every quarter as mandated by affiliation rules, so their claims cannot be scrutinised by MU,” says Chandrashekhar Kulkarni, a Mumbai University Senate member and professor at the Thadomal Shahani Engineering College, Mumbai.

Unfortunately despite engineering colleges being answerable to three competent authorities — MU and the director of technical education (DTE) as also the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex governance body for technical education in the country — salaries of faculty and staff are routinely delayed, and several other violations of rules and regulations remain unchecked. It’s also noteworthy that s.72 (10) of the Maharashtra Universities Act (2016) empowers MU to withdraw the affiliation of colleges violating affiliation norms. However when BUCTU raised the matter at the MU Senate committee meeting held on August 25, apart from assuring quick resolution of the matter, the university’s administration failed to initiate any action against colleges defaulting on timely payment of faculty salaries, a prime condition of affiliation.

Even as the MU administration and state government’s DTE, which directly supervises MU-affiliated colleges, have remained passive spectators to the predicament of thousands of university and college faculty and staff, the Delhi-based AICTE leadership has sided with the management of affiliated colleges and upbraided the state government. In an April 11 notification issued to the principal secretaries of state governments across the country, it said that the council had received “complaints from colleges about state governments not releasing the fees of students studying in different engineering colleges under the SC/ST scholarship schemes being implemented through the social welfare departments of the concerned state governments. Due to non-receipt of funds from state governments, the institutions are unable to pay the salaries of faculty and staff members”.

With BUCTU representing the faculty of only 350 of the 823 colleges affiliated with MU, data about the statusf faculty and staff of the remaining colleges affiliated with MU, is unavailable. Ideally, MU’s local inquiry committee (LIC), a three-member watchdog appointed by the university to inspect affiliated colleges, should have investigated their condition. More so, since almost all the colleges named but not shamed by BUCTU, figured in the LIC’s list of affiliation norm violators in 2017-18 and 2018- 19. At that time, the MU management had refrained from taking any action on these colleges, citing the negative impact disaffiliation would have on their students.

Nothing seems to have changed since then.

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