Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

At Sijua of Bhubaneswar stands NM Institute of Engineering & Technology. It is one of the 87 privately run high-tech educational institutes in Orissa, where teachers and staff members are being treated as helots in absence of any codified condition of service.

By an order on July 15 it has reminded the teachers and staff that there is no lunch break and hence they are debarred from going out for lunch. The order bears number NMIET/Academic/2009/139.

Under its stipulations, teachers and lab-staff are to stay on duty for 7 hours 30 minutes on all the working days that usually span from 9.30 AM to 5.00 PM. They are also required to attend duty as and when necessary at 7.30 or 8.30 AM, in which case their duty hours would end at 3.00 or 4.00 PM. So one is to work without lunch till 4.00 or 5.00 PM in a sub-human condition.

Behind this sub-human provision there seems to be a game plan of the owner of the institute. It almost compels the teachers and staff to cough up money as dictated by the owner in captive canteens where any food taken happens to be Hobson’s choice.

This is just a sample.

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), suspected since long but currently in headlines for corruption, seldom inspects any private technical institute to find out if its norms are honored.

AICTE was set-up in November 1945 as a national level Apex Advisory Body to conduct survey on the facilities on technical education and to promote development in the country in a coordinated and integrated manner. And to ensure the same, as stipulated in, the National Policy of Education (1986), AICTE be vested with statutory authority for planning, formulation and maintenance of norms and standards, quality assurance through accreditation, funding in priority areas, monitoring and evaluation, maintaining parity of certification and awards and ensuring coordinated and integrated development and management of technical education in the country, says its pivoting document.

The document goes on to inform that the Government of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development) constituted a National Working Group to look into the role of AICTE in the context of proliferation of technical institutions, maintenance of standards and other related matters. The Working Group recommended that it be vested with the necessary statutory authority for making it more effective, which would consequently require restructuring and strengthening with necessary infrastructure and operating mechanisms; pursuant to which, the AICTE Act, framed in1987, came into force with effect from March 28, 1988 that equipped AICTE with statutory status on May 12, 1988 with power to formulate and implement proper planning and coordinated development of technical education system throughout the country, to promote qualitative improvement of such education in relation to planned quantitative growth and to regulate and ensure proper maintenance of norms and standards in the technical education system and to control, interpret and instruct in the matters connected therewith.

All these formulations are discarded in respect to Orissa. Instead of promoting qualitative improvement of technical education in relation to planned quantitative growth, Orissa has been allowed to become the hunting house of the mafia in this field. On 20 July 2006 we had shown in these pages how scam engulfs high-tech education in Orissa and how the mafia running the private institutions sale seats for several lakhs of Rupees to absolutely ineligible children of black money hoarders or fund-raisers. The report was captioned, Scam Engulfs High-Tech Education In Orissa: Merit Markers Silent! It took two years for the Government of Orissa to act. For the first time, the controlling department of Industry has only today banned admissions in Purusottam Institute of Engineering & Technology (PIET), Rourkela this year onwards while simultaneously clamping a cash fine of 5.4 lakhs of Rupees on situational spotting of high-priced sale of seats. But the AICTE is conspicuous by its absence in promoting qualitative education.

In almost all private technical education institutes there are teachers who could never have qualified for such posts in Government institutes. I was astonished to see a man whom I knew as an assistant electrical engineer with a checkered career in the chair of the Professor of Electrical Engineering last year.

The AICTE norm on faculty stipulates that Lectures should be recruited on merit basis through open competitions and higher posts up to the rank of Professors, on promotion from amongst the faculty members on merit and seniority basis. But Orissa’s private TE institutes recruit teachers on private preference of the owners and mostly nepotism plays the tricks. There is no recruitment yardstick, no Recruitment Board, no emphasis on competence. In such a situation, deficient hands get faculty positions within the pleasure of the owners of the institutes. And, work sans any demand for fair pay. And, this position encourages the owners of the institutes they serve to treat them as bondservants.

This year most of these private institutes have got a shock as a new institute, one of the 25 to get AICTE approval for admission, Shibani Institute of technical Education (SITE) has announced to pay its faculty and staff at the rate recommended by the 6th Pay Commission and seemingly under its impact, three other institutes such as KIIT, STI and SoA have declared to implement the same while GITA is reportedly contemplating to adopt the line. It is clear from this scenario that till this year none of the private TE institutes in Orissa has paid its faculty and staff at the rate adopted by AICTE or recommended by the Pay Commission.

On the other hand, a look at any of these institutes reveals that there are no permanent faculties in any of them. The primitive method of hire and fire keeps the faculty position ever so rolling that students are never assured of a regular course-guide. You will never find a single teacher or member of the staff in any of these institutes that does not suffer from sense of job-insecurity.

With students having “just the pass mark” in Plus-Two Exams in the classes of these institutes under the auspices of OPECA (Orissa Private Engineering Colleges Association) taken up by teachers that are too deficient of requisite qualification and competence to harp on fair and proper salary, the scenario of high tech education in Orissa is so alluring for the mafia that whosoever has earned and accumulated black money is in a position to become a baron of academic business in the field of TE.

Orissa has now 30, 000 seats approved by AICTE for admission under 4 governmental and 87 private TE institutes. They are to be taught by 2000 teachers. If the present pedagogic scenario does not change, there should be no doubt that the ultimate outcome would be most disastrous to the society.

Arrest of some AICTE officials on chance discovery of corrupt practices or penalty on a private TE institute on violation of admission norms will not solve the problem that has engulfed technical education in Orissa. The State Government must have to rise to the occasion and drag the owners of the private TE institutes that are being increasingly marked for their avarice than for academic service into discipline. To ensure that pedagogy in these private institutes runs on AICTE formulated norms, immediate steps should be taken to assize justiciable Service Code and Condition of Service for the teachers and staff in the TE sector including private universities with unambiguous stipulations to screen out deficient teachers with retrospective effect and with clear provisions to build up a select list of teachers through a Selection Board from which alone the private institutes may pick up their faculties.

The present treating of high tech teachers as helots by their masters in private TE institutes must have to be stopped by the State if at all it is run by a Government worth the salt, purely in interest of our future generations.

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