They are considered experts in their fields, and students in scores flock to them to glean from their vast reservoirs of knowledge. Yet, when it comes to remuneration of these honorary teachers at state-run hospitals, the government fails to match even the figures it doles out to class IV sweepers.
Honorary faculty members at 14 state-run medical colleges, three state-run dental colleges and four state-run Ayurvedic colleges are paid a measly Rs 1,500 per month as honorarium for their services. Moreover, most hospitals have refused to raise the retirement age of honorary faculty members from 58 to 62, a privilege that has been allowed to permanent faculty members.
Owing to the meagre amount doled out as honorarium, hundreds of posts still lie vacant, even as students suffer owing to the paucity of quality faculty members. Now, the state government has invited the wrath of honorary teaching faculty by circumventing a Government Regulation (GR) passed in 2010, which states that the permissible age of faculty be raised from 58 to 62 for retirement. Side-stepping the GR, authorities at the Grant Medical College insist that the honorary faculty must not be older than 58 years.
Dr Vijay Tapase, honorary professor of Surgery attached to Grant Medical College and the President of the Honorary Doctors Association, said, “This is a clear case of discrimination between the permanent medical teachers who are considered state employees, and the honoraries. While honorary teachers are paid a peanut stipend of Rs 1,500 per month, full time teachers are paid a sum ranging between Rs 70,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh. Also, though the state government has specifically increased the age limit of retirement from 58 years to 62 years and further allowed for the appointment on contract of retired teachers from 62 to 65 years at a pay scale of Rs 50,000 per month, no such privilege is granted to honorary teachers. Even the Medical Council of India has allowed the teaching faculty to continue offering their services till the age of 65-70 years, due to scarcity of medical teachers. So why are we being scapegoated?” he asked.
Dr J M Phadtare, honorary professor of Pulmonary medicine at GT Hospital, confirmed, “The state government, in its resolution dated April 30, 2010, had clearly raised the retiring age for teaching professors, associate professors and assistant professors from 58 years to 62 years, but the same is not brought into practice in case of honorary teaching staff, especially those associated with Grant Medical College.”Another doctor added, “The dean of the JJ group of hospitals issued a letter dated June 7, 2011, (copy with MiD DAY) to all the honorary doctors attached to the Grant Medical College, stating that the retirement age for honorary doctors was 58 years, and that they would have to renew their extensions annually thereafter.”
Tapase added, “All other states extend the same respect to honorary doctors and full time faculties, but we are treated like aliens. We aren’t even allowed to act as examiners any more, which is insulting.” Dr Pravin Shingare, chief of directorate of medical education and research, admitted that there was indeed a shortage of teaching faculty in state-run medical colleges. At Grant Medical College itself, which has around 600 undergraduate medical students, there are 50 vacancies waiting to be filled — 35 for full-time posts and 15 for honorary posts.
Refuting the claims of the honorary teachers, Shingare said, “The government order raising the retirement age is only applicable for full-time faculty members, and not for honorary teaching faculty — their retirement age continues to be 58 years, and they can get extensions of 364-day-periods until they reach 62 years, if their application is approved and accepted by the concerned department.”
Dr T P Lahane, dean of the JJ Group of hospitals, said, “I have written to the state government six months ago, asking that the age of retirement even for honorary teachers be raised from 58 years to 62 years, as the service rendered by them is equal to that rendered by full time teachers. Also, we have 50 posts for associate professors lying vacant in Grant Medical College, which will be filled in next couple of months.”
State Education Minister Dr Vijay Gavit said, “We have already put a proposal to the General Administration Department to consider raising the retirement age of honorary teachers from 58 to 62 years and are hopeful the same will be effected soon. In future, only those with super specialties will be termed as honorary, and their expertise will also be used at an optimum level. We have mooted the idea of increasing the stipend of honorary teachers from Rs 1,500 to Rs 15,000, but the sanctioning of the same will take time, as it requires finance approval. The posts which are lying vacant will be filled soon.”