TISS withdraws ‘mass termination’ of over 100 staff members after TET commits to releasing fund

A student pointed out that there is a ₹650 crore proposal from Tata Sons for a "museum of temples" in Ayodhya but not for the faculties.

BySumit Jha

Published Jun 30, 2024 | 6:48 PM Updated Jun 30, 2024 | 7:41 PM

Tiss withdraws mass termination notice

Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has withdrawn the termination of over 100 teaching and non teaching staffs across the campuses, two days after they were terminated.

Their employment was terminated on Friday, 28 June institution did not receive funds from Tata Education Trust (TET) to pay its faculty.

In a statement, the Registrar said that while it was unavoidable to issue discontinuation letters due to this contractual arrangement, there has been a positive development regarding the release of funds from TET.

“Ongoing discussions with the Tata Education Trust have provided assurance that resources will be made available to TISS to resolve this issue. TET has committed to releasing funds for the salaries of TET project/programme faculty and non-teaching staff,” said the Registrar.

He added that the letter dated 28 June, addressed to all concerned TET Programme faculty and non-teaching staff, is withdrawn with immediate effect. “They are requested to continue their work, and salaries will be released as soon as the TET Support Grant is received by the institute,” said the Registrar.

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), established in 1936 as a Deemed University and fully funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the Government of India, is currently governed by the TISS Society in accordance with mandates from the University Grants Commission.

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Mass termination due to lack of funds

“The Institute tried best to pursue for the release of grant from Tata Education Trust for the purpose of salary. The Institute made several attempts for the release of grant through official correspondence and personal meetings with TET and the decision regarding further extension of grant period has not yet been received from Tata Education Trust. In view of above, it is extremely painful to inform you that your services at the institute will come to an end we.f. 30 June 2024 (A.N.), in the event of non-receipt of approval/grant from Tata Education Trust,” this is the content of the email that over a hundred teaching and non-teaching staff of TISS received on Friday, 28th June at around 8 pm.

Over 55 teaching faculty and over 60 non-teaching staff members of TISS across the four campuses – Mumbai, Hyderabad, Guwahati, and Tuljapur – were terminated without any notice period as TET did not provide the required grant to the institute. The remaining teaching staff are permanent faculty members under UGC’s payroll.

The staff who were terminated were engaged under programs funded by the Tata Education Trust (TET) on a contractual basis for specific program durations, according to the institute.

In the Hyderabad campus, one school with 12 faculties – had seen nine removed from service – leaving only three for around 60 students in second year and the upcoming batch. Overall, in Hyderabad, around 15 teaching faculty and seven non-teaching staff had received termination emails.

Talking to South First before the termination was withdrawn, a faculty member said, “I have called my family here, I got my kids admitted to the school. Earlier, they said that Tata Education Trust is going to release the funds and that for a year there won’t be any problem. I have kids; now, who is going to pay the fees? This is one of the best institutes, and many of us left other opportunities and did not go for interviews as we thought our jobs were secure.”

“It is devastating. I have been teaching for decades, and there are faculties who have taught for two decades. This situation is personally shocking,” said another faculty member to South First.

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‘Decline in support for higher education’

“At TISS, a part of the faculty members were permanent employees who are employed by UGC. Another portion of employees was hired on a contract basis, usually a yearly contract. While they were employees of TISS, the contract was between TISS and the employees, with funding coming from TET. The service can be terminated with one month notice from either side or salary in lieu of one month notice period,” a faculty member explained.

Contract of the non-permanent faculty was till 31 May but they received an email from the administration saying that “The Institute has taken up the extension of appointment with TET for some more time. However, decision of the Tata Education Trust has not yet been received and now it is understood that it will take some more time. In view of the above, you are requested to continue to attend your duties till further instructions. This decision has been taken in anticipation of extension approval from Tata Education Trust and with the approval of the competent authority. We will inform you soon once we receive any update from TET,” read the previous email.

“We received a email on 31 May, stating that our contracts would be extended for some time. There was no prior indication that they would terminate our contracts after making such a promise. Even the Director assured us that our services would remain, and that extensions would be granted. We were told that the competent authority was busy with elections, but we continued to do all our work,” said a faculty member.

He said that, last year, when postgraduate students were admitted, “we were assured that the faculty-student ratio would be maintained and that our contracts would be extended, keeping the students’ future in mind. Our understanding was that being a prominent funding organisation, Tata Trust would continue funding until this batch graduated. We also believed that since the central government had taken over, they would ensure that these members were retained.”

Since new courses were introduced across all the four campuses, faculty were confident that they will receive funding to support the new programs.

“We were conducting interviews and counselling for the students who are going to get admitted this year, thinking that if the institute is admitting a student, our service will get extended,” said another faculty member adding that after 31 May’s email, they were put on duty for admission counselling.

But, at the end, the service of these faculty were terminated by TISS in an email, stating that “if any, regarding extension/continuation of your services at the institute will be intimated to you once the approval/grant received from Tata Education Trust. The institute will work on your pending salary dues for the month of June 2024 and the same shall be released on clearance of your No Dues.”

“Technically funding has come to an end but the institute should have had an exit policy, severance pay etc. as the principal employer TISS cannot wash its hands off and terminate people because of lack of funds. What happens to staff, what happens to the academic programs and students?” another faculty had asked after receiving email about the termination.

TISS, a deemed-to-be university, has been brought under the central government’s jurisdiction as it receives over 50 percent of its funding from the government since June 2023.

After it came under the jurisdiction of UGC, the head of TISS and some other deemed-to-be universities are being appointed by the central government, and not by their governing boards. The governing board of TISS has been replaced by an executive council headed by a government-appointed vice-chancellor. Admissions to TISS is based on merit tests conducted by the National Testing Agency or any other body appointed by the government.

“Since the BJP government came into power in 2014, there has been a general decline in support for higher education, particularly in social sciences. Both Tata Trust and the central government need to take responsibility and prevent this disaster,” observed a faculty.

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Funds available for ‘museum of temples’ but not for faculty?

Progressive Students Organisation – Hyderabad said in a statement that the decision of ‘mass termination’ of almost 100 teaching and non-teaching staff at TISS under the BJP led union government has come at a time with less than 10 days for the campus to reopen for the new academic year.

“This decision has created panic among students and also a situation of scarcity of teaching and non-teaching staff. The previous years’ NIRF ranking and data was already a concern that was raised and now this decision would further put the institute and the quality of education provided in question,” PSO had said in a statement.

It also stated that the BJP-led Union government and current leadership of TISS administration has to be held accountable for the mass termination of these employees and taking away their livelihood.

Criticising the Union government, the statement read, “Time and again the Central government has been proving their incompetency in the education of the students of this nation. With the students coming to the campus in a week, and the semester set to start, a situation of panic has been created among students regarding their future academic courses and dissertation works. Many of these employees from economically and socially marginalised backgrounds have been put in difficult situation by the TISS administration under the BJP-led union government by robbing their livelihood.”

“The person who ensured the internet connectivity (in the campus) is without a job. The person who ensured the cleanliness of the toilets at all floors of the campus is without a job. The person who helped us with plagiarism checks and books is without a job. The person who taught us human rights is without a job. The person who taught us to stand up against gender discrimination is without a job. The person who taught us the history of India is without a job. The person who taught us macro and micro economics is without a job . The person who fought against all odds with death for one student, is without a job. How can we all work as a team when the tree itself is cut off?” reads a message in students group.

A student mentioned that there is a 650 crore proposal from Tata Sons for a “museum of temples” in Ayodhya, but not for the faculty and for the future of hundreds of students.

(Edited by Neena)

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