Aritra Basu, a postgraduate in English and a prospective applicant for the post of guest lecturer, shared his problems with BE. He said, “The government (of West Bengal) circular released on July 13, 2019, has affected me immensely. A week before that, I was selected as a guest lecturer at a reputed college in Kolkata. The appointment letter was pending as our final semester results were temporarily delayed. However, after the circular was released, I lost a job, which I had secured, declining me of both an opportunity to earn and to gain an experience certificate,which would have helped me in future for subsequent jobs in the field of teaching.”
Basu was referring to a recent circular issued by the Department of Education, Government of West Bengal, which stated that the state-aided colleges should inform the government before appointing guest lecturers. The circular also prohibited the state-aided colleges to issue advertisements for recruiting guest lecturers.
Partha Chatterjee, Minister-in-Charge, Department of Educa-tion, Government of West Bengal, said, “Often they (colleges) do so and the department is kept in the dark about the recruitment.” He said that many colleges were recruiting guest lecturers and part-time professors in spite of having permanent faculty members and that “there should be a proportionate presence of teachers in the colleges.”
The circular was followed by an announcement from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to regularise guest lecturers, part-time, and contractual teachers in state-aided colleges. This has created apprehension among prospective college teachers. Apart from promising job regularisation, Banerjee had also announced a minimum monthly salary for part-time, whole-time contractual and guest teachers working in state-aided colleges. The minimum monthly salary for these teachers would vary from `15,000 to `30,000 depending on their educational qualification and years in service. However, this might lead to a halt in recruitment of new guest and part-time teachers.
According to sources, this policy has been implemented to control recruitment of guest lecturers. Earlier, several recruitment processes were being politically manipulated. In numerous cases, it was seen that one person enjoyed the position of guest lecturer at a college while he or she was also engaged as a part-time faculty in some other college. This circular may control that trend. However, it will also narrow down the scope of employment for fresh aspirants.
Ishani Dutta, a Ph.D scholar from ViswaBharati University, told BE, “The only positive from this circular is that I have known many professors over the years who have been guest lecturers throughout their lives, awaiting confirmation. Some of them are almost nearing retirement. However, such cases are only a handful and in the long run, I feel that unless the numbers of seats are increased by the College Service Commission (CSC), the available seats would reduce gradually.”
She stated “The number of student enrollment is increasing in many colleges. The number of college teachers should likewise increase. However, the government prefers to employ guest and part-time teachers to fill the teaching void in colleges as it doesn’t want to give long-term benefits that come with a permanent teaching position in government and state-aided colleges.”
Reeswav Chatterjee, a guest lecturer at a college in South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, told BE, “Guest lecturership provides us with the opportunity to gain experience, which will benefit our career in future.” At present, nearly 14,000 teachers work as guest, part-time, and contractual teachers in the 550-odd state-aided colleges in Bengal.
Sankha Ghosh, a guest lecturer in Ramakrishna Mission Residential College (Autonomous), told BE, “The state government promises that its recent policy concerning the guest teachers will not coincide with the recruitment of assistant professors through CSC. However, we need to take that with a pinch of salt as we have seen in recent times how recruitment of school teachers through the School Service Commission (SSC) has come to a standstill in recent times. I sincerely hope that this policy does not affect recruitment through CSC. Guest teachers across colleges in West Bengal are paid very less. It is somewhat reassuring that the salaries of the guest teachers will be regularised, but, I do not support the decision of making those positions permanent. There lies an inherent risk that a permanent position might block a full-time job opening.”