Tuesday, September 16, 2008

UGC pay panel delay likely to hit UPA’s election plans

Much to the chagrin of the UPA government, the University Grants Commission’s pay review committee is unable to “estimate” how much more time it will require to finalise its recommendations. The committee headed by Professor G K Chadha was supposed to submit its report on September 5. 

The HRD ministry has given it a month’s extension, but professor Chadha is unwilling to commit himself to a public deadline. The UPA government would like to wrap up the pay review before elections are announced. 

College and university teachers are an important electoral constituency and the government would rather give them the expected pay hike in time so that it can reap electoral dividends. 

However, the Chadha Committee does promise “radical” changes which will help the Indian higher education sector meet the socio-economic and cultural challenges in the era of globalisation, even as Professor Chadha is unwilling to commit a deadline. 

He says that the committee will take “no longer than is necessary”. One of the reasons, the chairman has cited for the delay is that the committee is yet to reach at a consensus on three or four issues. 

These include changes in the “layers” of the faculty at the college and university levels — the choice is to continue with the current gradation from lecturer to reader to professor or to introduce new levels. Professor Chadha said that should changes be introduced, suitable time scales will also have to be introduced. 

Other unresolved issues include whether the UGC pay committee should replicate the central pay commission’s system for grade pay and pay bands, and the manner in which to resolve the anomalies of the previous committee’s — the Rastogi Committee — recommendations. 

Another area that the committee members feel needs more attention is the manner in which stagnation of college and university professors can be addressed. At present, it seen that often college professors achieve the top of their scale and then continue to remain there without any possibilities of advancement. 

Former IISc director Professor G Padmanaban, who is member of the committee, said that there was a strong view within the panel that no teacher should suffer from stagnation. 

Now, the committee needs to work out a way to compensate these members of the teaching community, and to do so they will need to find parallels within the sixth pay commission’s recommendation. 

In light of the vast higher education expansion plans of the government, the committee has suggested a uniform retirement age of 65 years across the country. At present, there is a “great discrepancy” in the retirement age that ranges for 55 to 65 years. 

“We are in a situation when availability of teaching faculty is critical to the government’s plans. This issue can be addressed to some measure through a retirement age that is uniformly set across the entire higher education system,” Professor Chadha said. 

Professor Chadha said that at the entry level the higher education sector is competing with the corporate sector and civil services for the best minds. “We need to offer an attractive package. While we can’t compete with the corporate sector it should be such that 10 years down the road, the academic has no regrets.” 

Stating that the choice was clear, Professor Chadha said, “We can’t give the red carpet welcome but we can provide a decent living condition”. The effort to attract the best minds to join the academic circuit will include “unprecedented financial support” and improved research facilities.
Source : The Economic Times

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