Mumbai University, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, issue notification for indefinite postponement as non-teaching staff boycott exam work; students say govt must decide on demands
Students had planned their schedules around the exam timetable, which is up in the air now. File pic
With the non-teaching staff of universities across the state boycotting all exam-related work, students are bearing the brunt as universities have started postponing exams. The Mumbai University (MU) issued a notification postponing exams, which were slated for February 3, until further notice. Shivaji University, Kolhapur, too, has postponed exams. Responding to the universities’ action, the government has said it is a serious matter as it was never intimated about the step. The unions of non-teaching staff, led by the Maharashtra State University and College Employees Joint Action Committee, have demanded payment of pending salaries, filling vacant posts, and implementation of the old pension scheme.
The Mumbai Vidyapeeth Karmachari Sangh (MVKS), a non-teaching staff organisation at MU, said that the agitation would continue if the demands are not accepted. Rupesh Malusare, general secretary, MVKS said, “Currently, only exam work has been boycotted. If the demands are not met, on February 14, employees will participate in a protest during the lunch break. On February 15, they will work wearing black ribbons. On February 16, there will be a one-day strike. If the government does not fulfil our demands, our protest will intensify, and employees will go on an indefinite strike from February 20.” The non-teaching staff staged a protest in the MU complex on Thursday morning.
Higher and Technical Education minister Chandrakant Patil met the members of the joint action committee and appealed to protesters to withdraw the agitation, saying that a favourable decision would be taken to accept the demands. However, the university non-teaching staff under MKVS continued their protest. Malusare added, “We are firm on our stand and will continue to protest until all our demands are met. The meeting with the government on Wednesday was not successful, so we decided to continue our strike.”
Meanwhile, students say that this is a waste of their time and is leading to anxiety and inconvenience. Rati Kumar, an MA student from MU, said, “I do a part-time job, and wanted to avoid office work during exams, so I applied for leave. I don’t know when the exams will be rescheduled now, and whether I can get leave then.” A student of MCom said, “We cannot blame the non-teaching staff, they are fighting for their demands which are not unreasonable. At the same time, it is students like us who will suffer. It’s such a waste of time. Exams have been postponed because the demands of non-teaching staff are not met. The government needs to take a stand at the earliest.”
‘Convince staff to work’
The MU’s decision to postpone exams did not go down well with the Ministry of Higher and Technical education. In a letter addressed to the vice-chancellors (VC) of all state and non-agricultural universities on Friday evening, Principal Secretary of the state’s Higher & Technical Education department, Vikas Chandra Rastogi, said that the department is positive about resolving the issue and was already in talks with the protesting unions. “In the meantime, Shivaji University Kolhapur and Mumbai University decided to postpone the exams and the same was done without informing the department of higher and technical education. This is a very serious matter,” the letter read. The VC of Shivaji University also holds the interim charge of MU VC. The letter further stated, “The Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016 mandates that it is the responsibility of the university to conduct examinations on time. Hence, the university administration has been directed to make arrangements to conduct the exam as expected. Meanwhile, Universities must convince their protesting non-teaching staff to resume work.”