Guest lecturers in Karnataka to undertake 3-day padayatra, declining government resolution

The state government warned them of potential job terminations if they did not resume their duties at colleges by 1 January.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Dec 31, 2023 | 5:53 PMUpdatedDec 31, 2023 | 5:56 PM

Karnataka Guest lecturers padayatra

The tensions between the Congress-led state government and the Karnataka State Government First Grade College Guest Lecturers’ Association took a new turn with the latter announcing a padayatra.

In a significant development, the association, dissatisfied with the government’s offers, escalated its protest by announcing a three-day padayatra from Tumakuru to Bengaluru City on 1 January.

In a countermove, the state government has issued an ultimatum, warning of potential job terminations if guest lecturers do not resume their duties at colleges by the approaching Monday, 1 January.

Minister for Higher Education Dr MC Sudhakar told South First that according to the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, these guest lecturers cannot regularise their service, which is one of their main demands, and the government is offering alternative solutions.

Last week, Sudhakar announced a pay hike, health insurance schemes, and post-retirement monetary benefits to the guest lecturers who have been protesting since 23 November.

This clash highlights the deepening conflict between the government and educators, raising concerns about the potential disruptions in the state’s academic activities as thousands of guest lecturers have boycotted the colleges and are protesting against the government to fulfil their demands.

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Padayatra objectives

The guest lecturers association is scheduled to begin their three-day Padayatra from Tumakuru’s Siddaganga Mutt’s premises on 1 January, where Pontiff Siddalinga Mahaswami will flag off for the demonstration.

Over 2,500 guest lecturers will participate in the three-day padayatra. The demonstration will march through Kayathsandhra, Dabaspet and Nelamangala and conclude at Bengaluru’s Freedom Park on 3 January.

The primary demand of the association is to regularise the service of around 11,000 guest lecturers with an equal pay scale to that of the permanent lecturers. The protest is being spearheaded under the leadership of the association’s president, Hanumanthgouda Kalmani.

Meanwhile, the association members pointed out that the steps taken by the government were not the ones that they demanded.

Tumakuru Guest Lecturers’ Association President Dr Dharamveer KH told South First: “The government has announced pay hikes and health insurance schemes for guest lecturers, which were not our primary demands.”

“We have been protesting since 23 November, demanding the state government to regularise our service. Even after serving 20 years, a guest lecturer gets a maximum salary of ₹37,000, whereas, for the same work, the permanent employee grosses around ₹3 lakh. Aren’t they seeing this disparity? Does a mere hike of ₹5,000 serve justice to us?” asked Dr Dharamveer.

Flaws in government order

Listing out the flaws in the government’s offers, Dharamveer said: “The government has announced a health insurance scheme for the guest lecturers. In reality, they take away ₹400 every month from our salary for the health insurance scheme. This scheme is not extended to immediate family members. What kind of health insurance is the government offering to us?”

“The government has also announced monetary benefits of ₹5 lakh for guest lecturers after their retirement at the age of 60 years with a minimum of 10 years of experience. However, there is no clarity, in terms of eligibility,” he expressed concern about the guidelines.

“We have only demand to the government, they have to regularise our jobs considering our service because it will resolve most of our demands as well,” elaborated Dr Dharamveer, who is a guest lecturer in the Government Women’s First Grade Degree College in Tumakuru.

He further said: “The government should credit our salary regularly and provide working days all the 12 months in an academic year. At present, we are assured of 10 months but getting wages for only eight to seven months.”

“There are various issues — the Minister for Higher Education should invite the guest lecturers that are protesting on the ground for the meeting instead of his close circles and irrelevant associations. We will continue to protest until justice is served and our demands are fulfilled,” cautioned Dharamveer.

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Government makes offers, guest lecturers turn down

The Siddaramaiah-led government announced various facilities including a pay hike of ₹5,000 and a health insurance scheme for all the guest lecturers employed in state-run first-grade degree colleges on 29 December.

The government announced these benefits in the backdrop of indefinite protests being staged by guest lecturers across the state since 23 November.

Minister Sudhakar had told the media: “We have listened to the grievances of the guest lecturers. They had made various demands including making their job permanent.”

“We have decided to give a pay hike of ₹5,000 for the guest lecturers. The chief minister has given consent. Apart from this- after retirement guest lecturers will be provided ₹5 lakhs and health insurance scheme as well,” Sudhakar had appealed to all the guest lecturers to withdraw their protest.

However, the Karnataka State Government First Grade College Guest Lecturers’ Association rejected the government offers and continued their agitation against the government.

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Minister gives ultimatum to guest lecturers

Meanwhile, Sudhakar has issued a clear ultimatum stating that the government had already addressed certain demands of the protesting guest lecturers and warned of severe consequences if they did not resume their duties by 1 January.

The ultimatum intensified the ongoing clash, aimed around the lecturers’ call for job regularization and equal pay, adding a new layer of urgency to the negotiations.

In an exclusive conversation with South First, Sudhakar clarified: “As per the UGC guidelines, the state government cannot regularise their service. We are giving them 10 months of working days with salary and health insurance scheme as well.”

“Apart from this post-retirement monetary benefits and also 5 percent weightage in the government recruitments. They want to extract as much as possible from the government in a quick time. It does not work like that. We came to power hardly six months ago,” Sudhakar disagreed with the protest of guest lecturers.

Taking exception to the over one-month-long protest by the guest lecturers, Sudhakar pointed out: “One month has passed without classes being held in several government colleges. I appealed to them to consider our offers and report back to colleges to resume the classes.”

“I will not tolerate the protest if the students are getting affected. We have issued a circular asking all the guest lecturers to report back to the college on Monday (1 January). If they fail to report, we have to take stringent action against them because students’ futures are at stake,” fumed Sudhakar.

Cautioning the protesting guest lecturers, Sudhakar said: “Around 30,000 aspirants had applied for guest lecturer posts. If the working guest lecturers fail to turn up to college on Monday, we have alternative plans as well.”

“Around 15,000 to 16,000 aspirants are eagerly waiting for the opportunity. With no other option, we have to recruit them for the smooth functioning of colleges,” added the minister.

On vacancies in the government degree colleges, Sudhakar said: “As of now there are only 400 sanctioned assistant lecturers posts vacant in the government colleges. We will fill them at the earliest, which is already under process.”

“We have also requested the government to sanction for another 6,000 to 7,000 posts. As soon as the chief minister and the Finance Department give the nod, we will begin the recruitment process. We will fill these vacant posts as part of our party’s 2.5 lakh government jobs promise to the youth of Karnataka,” concluded Sudhakar.