The demand for central status has been raised at different intervals by the faculty of Panjab University, particularly whenever the Central and State Governments announced pay scales for teachers.
Written by Prof Ronki Ram
The issue of centralisation of Panjab University often generates strong controversies both within the university and the state of Punjab. It strikes a deep emotional chord with the people at large who have been the biggest victims of the partition of India. They did not lose only their Capital, but also along with it one of the oldest and prestigious universities of the country. Both of which now are in Lahore. It was against such a backdrop that a new world-class Capital city of Chandigarh was conceived with a view to minimising the general sense of loss amongst the people of Punjab. The decision to set up Panjab University in this new city was thus aimed at further softening the rough edges around the wounds of partition. Thus whenever a call for centralisation of Panjab University is given, it generates unanimity among all political parties and varied social organisationswithin the state against such a move. The sole reason behind the opposition is that such a decision would dilute the claim of Punjab on the Union Territory of Chandigarh, which was constructed after displacing about three dozens of its villages to compensate the loss of its LahoreCapital during the partition of the state into East and West Punjab.
The demand for central status has been raised at different intervals by the faculty of Panjab University, particularly whenever the Central and State Governments announced pay scales for teachers. The moment the issue of central status for Panjab University is raised; it ceases to be an issue of the university’s teachers only. It becomes, in fact, a much more complex political issue involving peoples of Punjab. It touches their sentiments and begins their mobilisation for the status quo. The last Punjab Government announced its much awaited 6th Pay Commission report after a gap of almost six years since the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission report by the Central Government in 2016. However, the Punjab Government under the Congress leadershipdid not extend the benefit of the 6th Pay Commission to its College and University teachers – the only category of employees kept out of the purview of the 6th Pay Commission for the reasons best known to its policy makers. To cover college and university teachers under the 6th Pay Commission, the Punjab Government needs to adopt the corresponding 7th UGC Pay Scales as notified by Central Pay Commission report, which it did not do so far. Whereas the all other State Governments have already adopted the 7th Pay Commission report for their respective college and university teachers. Himachal Pradesh is the only exception, which is linked with the adoption of the Central Pay Commission report by the Government of Punjab.
It is a regular practice that whenever Punjab Government implements its new pay scales, it used to adopt the corresponding UGC pay scales for its college and university teachers. The failure of the state government to implement the 7th pay scales as notified by the UGC, forced teachers to demand central status for Panjab University. This leads to a vicious circle: denial of the UGC pay scales and service conditions push teachers to ask for central status, which in turn leads to build opposition within Punjab in the name of dilution of its claim over Chandigarh. There is a general impression among the teaches that If Panjab University is not to be allowed to become a central university, its faculty should not be deprived of the benefits of the respectable UGC service conditions either. There is a large section of teaches who are of the opinion that any opposition against the issue of central status for the university should also be combined with the implementation of UGC pay scales and service conditions for its faculty within the given governance structure of the University.
The most important issue for Panjab University fraternity, at the current juncture, is the implementation of long overdue 7th Pay Commission report and to upgrade the service conditions as per the UGC guidelines. For an amicable realisation of this goal without any further delay as well as to avoid acrimonious argumentations on ‘support vs opposition’ about the vexed question of centralisation of Panjab University, it would be in the genuine interest of all the stakeholders that the Punjab government adopts UGC pay scales for teachers without further delay. As far as the issue of pay scales and service conditions is concerned, there is no opposition at all in any quarter. But when the issue of central status for the university is brought forth, it ignites sentiments of the people and soon mobilisationbegins within the state against such a move.