Chandigarh, Dec 31 (IANS) A prolonged fight of nearly 25 years by teachers of government-aided private colleges in Punjab for a pension scheme has come back to square one with the state government repealing its scheme without ever implementing it.
The Punjab government recently moved to repeal its pension scheme of 1996 and got it passed by the assembly at its recent session.
Teachers and non-teaching staff of government-aided private colleges in Punjab and Chandigarh, who have been demanding a pension scheme since 1986-87, say that they have been "betrayed" and "greatly hurt" by the move of the Parkash Singh Badal-led government in Punjab.
The Punjab and Chandigarh college teachers union (PCCTU), the apex body of private college teachers in the state, has now urged Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil not to approve the repeal of the pension scheme. Nearly 10,000 teachers and non-teaching staff are affected by the scheme.
"The teaching and non-teaching employees of the government-aided colleges in Punjab and Chandigarh have been greatly hurt by the act of the Punjab government," PCCTU co-president P.S. Gill said here.
Gill added: "Punjab has betrayed college teachers. I appeal to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal not to undo the act passed by his own government in 1999 and grant pension as college employees are the only ones who don't get pension. Failure to implement this will spoil the congenial atmosphere in colleges and the responsibility for this lies solely on the government."
The government move came even as a contempt case is pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court regarding the pension scheme not being implemented by the state government.
"The government is taking the route of the legislature to wriggle out of giving pension to college teachers," Jagwant Singh, vice-president of the All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (AIFUCTO), told IANS.
"It is shameful that the government has kept the pension scheme in limbo on one pretext or the other since 1996. Now, in the face of an interim order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to implement the pension scheme, it has withdrawn the scheme," Jagwant Singh said.
He regretted that Punjab is the only state amongst category-A states that does not give pension to the staff of aided private colleges. "Teachers in neighbouring Haryana also get pension at par with their counterparts in government colleges. But in Punjab and Chandigarh, teachers do not get any pension at all. The Akali Dal has gone back on its promises and assurances," he said.
The Pension Scheme Act was passed by the Punjab assembly unanimously in April 1999. The scheme (before it became an act) was announced originally in 1992 and the final orders were issued by the state government in Feb 1996.
"It is pitiable that among the top 20 states, Punjab is the only one which has not implemented the pension-gratuity scheme for its staff of non-government aided colleges. Even a poverty-stricken state like Assam has extended these benefits to the staff of its aided colleges," Gill said.
The PCCTU is now threatening an agitation by teaching and non-teaching staff across Punjab.
PCCTU general secretary Kuldip Singh said: "The PCCTU will hold state-wide protests and fasts to prevail upon the Punjab government to implement the pension scheme. We condemn the government action as the case was in the court and at its final stage of decision."
Private colleges have been getting a 95 percent grant-in-aid from the Punjab government for many decades. The scheme was originally introduced to promote private colleges across Punjab.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)