Raising retirement age: A rethink needed

J&K Administration led by LG Manoj Sinha, which has taken scores of pro-youth initiatives, should carefully weigh in the pros and cons of the decision
J&K govt logo [Representational Image]
J&K govt logo [Representational Image]File/GK

The Jammu and Kashmir Administration led by LG Manoj Sinha has taken several decisions which have been appreciated by the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. One major decision taken by the worthy LG this year is cancellation of recruitment processes like those in the Service Selection Board and Kashmir University.

The LG without wasting any time ordered a CBI investigation into the SSB recruitment scandal which has led to the arrest of many accused. This has reinforced the faith of youth in the JK Administration, which has assured youth of fair and transparent recruitment on a fast track basis by PSC and SSB. These decisions by LG have been widely appreciated by the general public. 

However, one announcement which needs an urgent rethink is the announcement of increasing the retirement age of faculty in universities of Jammu and Kashmir from 62 years to 65 years. Some facts may be noted before taking the final decision. 

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, commonly known as CMIE, puts the country’s unemployment rate as on November 26, 2022 at 7.7%. This figure for Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory is 22.4, which is the highest unemployment rate after Haryana (31.8%) and Rajasthan (30.7). The CMIE Statistical Profile for May-August 2022 says that 46.1% of unemployed people (In Terms of Unemployment by Maximum Qualification) have academic qualification more than Graduate while 53.59% have educational qualification ranging from 10 standard to 12 standard qualified.

This is a startling figure showing the magnitude of the problem of unemployment of highly educated unemployed youth in Jammu and Kashmir.

Even though the Government of Jammu and Kashmir often shows its willingness to address the problem by way of creating more jobs and filling up the vacant positions in the government sector, the problem remains a burgeoning issue which has caused a lot of distress to the educated unemployed youth of the UT.

Even if the Government fills up vacant posts, the problem will still continue to persist because of the rising figures of educated youth passing out from different educational institutions.

In this atmosphere of uncertainty and distress for the educated unemployed youth, the announcement reported in a section of the press that the Government of J&K will increase the retirement age of faculty in universities from 62 to 65 years looks not only preposterous but unmindful of the ground realities too.

That is why the announcement came in for severe criticism on social media from educated unemployed youth who have accused the Government authorities of playing with their careers.

Many youths who expressed their views on social media after the announcement was made by LG in Kashmir University (KU) during Sonzal programme said “instead of decreasing the retirement age to pave way for absorption of educated unemployed youth, it is sad that government is considering increasing the retirement age to further push unemployment.”

One reason that has been given for increasing the retirement age is to address the dearth of faculty in universities of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many youth however opposed this view saying that the dearth of faculty could be addressed by way of fast-tracking the recruitment process for vacant Assistant Professor positions and giving due promotional benefits to the already in-service Assistant Professors and Associate Professors.

“There is a dearth of faculty because posts are not being filled in time,” said one youth, a Ph.D holder.

Unemployed youth who are often seen on streets to protest against their unemployment are aghast that no deliberations have been held to decide on increasing the retirement age of university faculty.

“If you increase the retirement age in case of university faculty, it will open a floodgate. Tomorrow such demands will be made by doctors, college teachers, IAS/KAS Officers. Where shall the educated youth go then? Where are job avenues for us?” said Ashiq Ahmad, another youth on social media. “I have completed my Ph.D four years ago from a reputed university in the country but I am jobless. If the retirement age is enhanced, it will be a big disservice to the unemployed youth of the UT.”

This reporter spoke to many students in universities of UT who voiced similar concerns.

“The worthy LG sir should rethink his announcement and hold further consultations with different stakeholders before taking the final decision. Let the authorities seek feedback from different stakeholders so that there is no injustice with the educated unemployed youth,” said Mukhtiyar, a student at Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST), adding that “a reckless decision on this important issue can have far-reaching implications on the future of educated unemployed youth who are already feeling disillusioned and disturbed due to joblessness.”

Students and research scholars from the KU are critical of the idea that faculty aged 62 years should be retained.

“We have a bitter experience in our university. Hardly any Senior Professor enters the classrooms and laboratory after becoming Professor. There may be hardly 2% of Senior Professors who give classes or attend laboratories,” said a KU Ph.D Research Scholar, wishing anonymity.

“All that Senior Professors do in KU is to supervise Ph.D scholars. However, there too they have kept the illegal provision of co-supervision just to put the whole burden of supervision on the concerned co-supervisor.”

They said that most Senior Professors are presently on deputation for different administrative assignments in other universities like IUST.

“If senior Professors do not teach, what is the fun of retaining them? How will it be beneficial to the students and research scholars if they stay away in other universities?” the students asked.

To conclude, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir should constitute a committee to get the whole issue examined before taking the final call in the matter. The Committee should be asked to examine the matter in its entirety and weigh in the implications of increasing the retirement age on educated unemployed youth. The final decision should be pro-youth and not anti-youth so that educated unemployed youth do not suffer more. Hope the matter is not decided in any haste and worthy LG revisits his announcement for now.

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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