The Viciousness of Academic Arrangement

Destroying the Higher Education System, and Ruining the Youth of J&K
The Viciousness of Academic Arrangement
"Over time, the trend of “Contractual Faculty/ Academic Arrangement” has developed in the region. In the short run it may save a few pennies of the public sector but in the long run this system ruins the lives of thousands." [Representational Image] GK Layout Desk

The region of Jammu and Kashmir lags behind in industrialisation. As such, the avenues of employment are very limited. At the same time, people in the region have a special affinity for education and tertiary education.

Over time these factors have led to the creation of a youth bulge that is extremely bright and highly educated.

However, this youth force is plagued with one of the major crisis: unemployment. One specific case is the un- and under- employment of the academicians of Jammu and Kashmir.

Over time, the trend of “Contractual Faculty/ Academic Arrangement” has developed in the region. In the short run it may save a few pennies of the public sector but in the long run this system ruins the lives of thousands.

In the present article, I am highlighting some pressing issues created by this system and conclude by proposing two simple yet powerful solutions to the same:

Peanuts for Salary

The starting point of the trouble is the menial wage that is paid to the people employed as contractual faculty / academic arrangement in the colleges across the region.

The salary was approximately around twenty thousand rupees a month and was hiked to around twenty-five thousand rupees a month (adjusting for NET/ PhD).

For a person with degrees like PhD and Post-Doctorate a meager sum like this is a demotion from the previous fellowships that they have been drawing. And this salary that they are entitled to isn’t credited on time. It takes months on a stretch to get the very first one.

Under-employment of overly-educated population

Comparing with a national average, a person with PhD working in the higher education department earns a mean net income of seventy thousand a month with access to social security and leaves etc.

On the contrary, people working on academic arrangement are under perpetual stress and depression.

Their basic needs are barely met and their contribution towards their respective families is negligible. As a result, these people are caught in a vicious circle of under-employment, poverty and depression.

Second class citizen treatment

The people working under uncertain employment situations in the colleges of Kashmir, already struggling with mental health issues, are given a second class treatment in colleges.

Some colleges have separate rooms for permanent and contractual faculty. The former maintain a distinct status-quo. The latter, on the other hand, left to form a cluster caught up in a distressful situation.

Broken curriculum & fragmented learning process

The academic arrangement is carried out in the month of March and April and the classes start approximately in May. Winter vacation on the other hand ends in the last week of February.

This straightaway wastes the initial spring months of the students. Later on, to save money, the contractual faculty is disengaged in autumn at the earliest. Again wasting the time of students! As such, neither is the syllabus ever completed nor the learning targets reached.

Unpaid work

Since there is no accountability and clear definition of the tasks and division of work in these institutions, the people engaged on academic arrangement are made to do anything and everything that is to be done! Sometimes gate duty is prescribed, other times admissions are taken care of and anything that falls in between.

This steals the time from preparing classes and doing academic tasks like paper writing and deep subject understanding. At the same time, in terms of payment barely any extra penny is diverted in their direction!

The job uncertainty

Generally the job uncertainty and unsustainability had a life span of six to eight months but now with things like rationalisation etc., the uncertainty varies from hour to hour, and a working day to another.

Each day a new order is issued by the department of higher education and the academic arrangement staff is always worried about another day of employment. There are people who have been living like this for years at a stretch; satisfaction, happiness or stability are unfamiliar to them.

Hegemony of Principals

Having the powers of “Drawing and Disbursing Officer”, the control of releasing the (meagre) salaries of the contractual staff is in the hands of principals.

Asking them about their experiences, majority has some or other horrible nightmare to narrate. This meagre salary most often than not, comes with a general envelop of hegemony and inferior treatment.

Non-conducive outcomes

The academic outcomes from a system like this are unproductive and non-conducive. The students gain the least while the contractual faculty loses more in monetary and non-monetary terms.

As cumulative results the outcome is a lot of graduates who know the least about conceptual clarity and an army of over-age labor force facing depression and destitution.

No motivation to contribute significantly

The motivation to contribute positively and significantly to the academic processes is directly proportional to the returns that are promised to an individual.

As such, given the least level of returns by participating in the higher education provisions through the channel of contractual appointment, the willingness and motivation of an individual is limited.

As such the system is caught in a vicious circle that is hard to break at the existing levels of salary and remunerations, along with absence of any supplementary benefit.

Passing years of eligibility age

In a long-run context this system is killing the most fertile and most educated minds of the people in the region. The lack of finding an alternative job after a certain level of education and skill (like PhD) pushes these individuals to the core of this vicious circle, consuming their most valued asset: “age”.

After a certain decade or so, these people become over-aged and are labeled as dead-wood! Yes, just like that an ordinary obituary of someone’s hard work and academic career is written!

The most immediate thing that needs to be done (especially in light of the New Education Policy) is to increase the remuneration of the contractual staff across the colleges of J&K immediately, and significantly.

And the sustainable solution is to hire permanent faculty each year on the lines of JKAS pattern covering the brightest of minds. Implementation of these simple short-run and long-run measures will go a long way in solving multiple crisis of the higher education in Jammu and Kashmir.

Dhaar Mehak M. is an academic from J&K

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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