TED NewsDesk, New Delhi: More than 1200 assistant professors might lose their jobs by the end of the month as a World Bank-funded project to take graduates from elite institutions to rural and remote engineering colleges in poorer States is coming to an end in March.
The Centre is preparing its own MERITE project with some similar objectives to improve technical education, but that may be too late for the faculty employed under the current project.
Three phases of the ₹3,600-crore TEQIP project have been completed since it was launched in December 2002. The third phase focussed on improving quality and equity in engineering institutions in seven low-income, eight northeastern, and three hilly States. Among the initiatives was a bid to recruit more than 1,500 faculty from top institutions — four out of five are from the NITs and the IITs — and send them to colleges that could never have afforded them. They were paid salaries under the Seventh Pay Commission. Now, neither States nor Centre is willing to commit to continued funding.
About 300 faculties have already quit TEQIP for other jobs, but 250 of those remaining have filed cases in the Delhi High Court.
The issue was discussed at the last National Steering Committee meeting of TEQIP on January 27, with AICTE chairperson Anil Sahasrabuddhe batting for retention of faculty. “An amicable solution needs to be evolved to make them stay beyond the project period since these faculties have been selected through quite a rigorous process. They have contributed significantly to the project institutes. Also, they will become jobless after the completion of the project. Due to the pandemic, private institutions are not hiring any faculty which does not show a good future for the TEQIP faculties,” he said, suggesting that the Ministry of Education request the State governments to hire them on an ad-hoc basis.
Tanmay Rath who holds a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry from IIT Kharagpur, with post-doctoral experience in nanomaterials research in eastern Asia said, “I was hired under the TEQIP [Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme] project along with other NIT and IIT graduates and recruited to teach in some of the poorest and most remote areas. In Motihari Engineering College, there are 52 faculty but 20 are from TEQIP,” he said. The region is so remote that he has left his family behind in West Bengal.”
“What is the government talking about a new National Education Policy when it cannot even sustain the gains of an existing project?” asked Rabel Guharoy, a computer science faculty hired under TEQIP at the University College of Engineering and Technology in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.
According to the minutes of the meeting, the Steering Committee approved a proposal for project extension “in principle”, but recommended more detailed analysis and discussion. It said, “All the relevant documents for new project MERITE for technical education shall be circulated.” Senior officials at the Education Ministry also indicated that MERITE may carry on some aspects of TEQIP.
However, TEQIP’s central project advisor P.M. Khodke said “MERITE was still in the conceptual stage, did not yet have Cabinet approval, and was unlikely to be approved before the end of TEQIP phase III”. He pointed out that it is the responsibility of States to ensure that the gains of the project are sustained even after the World Bank funding is over.