Are J&K universities rehab centers for retired employees?

Amid rising unemployment rate, the varsities in the UT have turned into hubs of post-retirement reengagement of officials and teachers. The LG administration must crack the whip
File photo of Jammu University. [Image for representational purpose only]
File photo of Jammu University. [Image for representational purpose only]

The unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is rising steadily, according to the available data. The CMIE’s July 2022 figures put the rate of unemployment in the UT of J&K at 20.2 percent, second highest among states and UTs in the country.

It is a cause of concern for both the UT administration as well as the people, even though the LG administration in Jammu and Kashmir says it is making efforts to provide employment opportunities to the unemployed youth in government and private sectors.

In the private sector, the UT administration is inviting investments in the Industry to help absorb the unemployed youth of the UT.

However, amid these concerning figures of unemployment rate in J&K, something serious is missing the eye of the LG administration which concerns the educated unemployed youth of the UT.

It is the ever-growing ‘menace’ of reengagement of retired employees in the universities across Jammu and Kashmir which seem to have become rehabilitation centers for the retired persons.

It is not one particular university which has propagated this bad practice which has become a menace today. Almost all universities in the UT—Kashmir University, IUST Awantipora, BGSBU Rajouri, SKUAST K and others—have continuously reemployed/re-engaged retired officials/teachers in gross violation of rules and UGC guidelines, at the expense of the employment prospects of the educated unemployed youth of Jammu and Kashmir.

Here are some examples in this regard. In Kashmir University, several retired people have been re-engaged on consolidated monthly salaries as so-called ‘Consultants’ or under some other arbitrary designations over the last many years.

One such ‘Consultant’ is a retired Deputy Registrar who superannuated five years ago and continues to be re-engaged by the University authorities in the IT department on recommendations of the IT Directorate ever since.

Similar type of ‘reengagement’ of retired officials has been made in the Administration Block and Examination Department from 2018-2021.

“Only few days ago, one official of the legal cell of the University (who was last working in VC Office) was given re-engagement order on the same day when he retired under the garb of utilizing his services in the RTI section,” said the sources.

While the authorities of the Kashmir University (KU) are accused of not making official orders public and restricting them to personal files of officials only, insiders say all these re-engagement orders are being issued “arbitrarily” without any approved policy of re-engagement in vogue, or without any approval of the University Syndicate, University Council or the Chancellor.

“All these reengagements are being done on the wishes and whims of the authorities, on the basis of their personal likings and disliking rather than on the basis of any policy in vogue,” said a university teacher, wishing anonymity.

The IUST Awantipora appears to be another hub of rehabilitation of retired teachers. At least half a dozen teachers who have retired from Kashmir University made inroads into IUST. According to the University insiders, the University administration instead of seeking creation of posts of professors and their filling up through proper advertisements is continuing with the ‘bad practice’ of engaging retired teachers on consolidated salaries.

“No doubt there are some competent teachers who have been engaged in IUST, but instead of getting posts at the top created and filled through proper channels, it is blocking the promotional prospects of many teachers down the line,” said an assistant professor at IUST, wishing anonymity.

He said some teachers who retired at KU at the age of 62 continued at the IUST even up to the age of 70 years which is against all norms and UGC guidelines.

Another such case of blatant favouritism comes from Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) where a former VC has engaged a retired AMU teacher in gross violation of norms.

The said teacher is presently nearing 70 years of age but he continues to be re-engaged by the University authorities allegedly owing to his “proximity” with the VC.

“This retired person is holding an administrative position which is not a practice anywhere in the country. When a teacher retires, the UGC norms are clear that he/she can’t hold any administrative position,” said an official, in know-how of UGC regulations. In the instant case, the retired teacher is holding the important position of Dean Academic Affairs of BGSBU.

The practice of reengaging retired officers is also prevalent in SKUAST-K, where one former Director has been re-engaged recently as a Consultant allegedly in violation of all established norms, according to several SKUAST officials who spoke to Greater Kashmir.

One of the arguments generally given for such reengagements is that these people are “needed” because of their so-called experience. This argument is however flawed and absurd.

“By this logic, you have to re-engage everyone who has retired because by the time of retirement, everyone is so-called experienced then,” said a group of educated unemployed youth from Baramulla.

They said that if universities need replacements, they could put these posts to advertisement and fill them through proper channels within the stipulated time-frames.

“If educated youth who have done PhDs and MPhils are not given a chance of employment, how can they gain experience when someone is blocking their prospect to gain such experience?” the youths said, alleging that a fraud is being played with their careers by the university authorities.

Recently, the LG administration led by Manoj Sinha ordered a high-level inquiry into the continuation of some retired college principals at the Cluster University of Srinagar. This inquiry is expected to put an end to this practice of engaging retired officials, faculty members and other employees in universities across the J&K UT which are being headed by LG as the Chancellor.

As per the government order, Principal Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) has been appointed as an inquiry officer to conduct an enquiry into the matter of allowing retired officers to continue in Cluster University Srinagar (CUS).

“The inquiry officer will fix responsibility of the officers and officials who exceeded their authority and passed orders without approval of Competent Authority,” reads an order issued by Principal Secretary General Administration Department (GAD) Manoj Kumar Dwivedi.

According to sources in the UT administration, many officers in J&K universities have been re-engaged under the pretext of Consultants, Need-Based Officers in violation of norms. In view of the rising graph of unemployment as well as the fact that there is no policy with universities to make such engagements, the matter of CUS has led to the probe.

“If there are other universities who have resorted to such a practice, they cannot escape law and shall be made accountable,” the sources had said, adding that other universities were also under scanner for such violations.

“There should be a high level inquiry into this fraud that is being played with unemployed youth of the UT. Everything should be probed by investigating agencies and the government. Who has approved such re-engagements and why. Is there any policy for such reengagements according to which they are re-engaged?” said an official critical of any reengagements being made in universities and other government institutions.

The J&K Finance Department has issued many circulars in the past where the government has clearly banned reemployments, reengagements. These circulars are binding upon all autonomous institutions like universities and other government departments as well.

To conclude, there is no doubt that the LG administration is making sincere efforts to weed out unemployment from Jammu and Kashmir. However, if bad practices like these are allowed to continue in universities, the educated unemployed youth will lose all hope and confidence in the system and the assurances of the administration in this regard will only prove to be a damp squib. Retired officials should be allowed to retire gracefully and under no circumstances should be reengaged in any university, be it in the KU, IUST, SKUAST or BGSBU. It will send a very clear message to the administrators that universities cannot be run on the basis of personal likings and disliking. UGC guidelines and rules of the J&K Government should not be allowed to be violated by Universities. This bad precedent set by VCs should end immediately.

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