President Pranab Mukherjee has been constrained to ask the human resources development ministry to fill up all vacant posts in central universities. At present, 38 per cent posts in such varsities are vacant. Central universities are one of the best-funded institutions of higher learning. If this is their status, it is easy to imagine the condition of funds-strapped state universities and deemed universities. Small wonder that no Indian university finds a place among the “best” 200. However, it’s not for want of funds that Indian varsities lag behind their counterparts in other nations, including China.
India had 669 universities, including 40 central universities, and 35,000 colleges with an enrolment of 2.69 crore students by the end of the 11th Plan. Allocation for expansion of higher education has been raised two and a half times in the 12th Plan. Varsities are known mainly for their faculties, not buildings, since the days of Nalanda. Alas, nowadays, construction of buildings receives greater attention of vice-chancellors than appointment of teachers. Even when teachers are appointed, there is often a tussle between the governor, who is chancellor of state varsities, and the VCs appointed by the state government, as had happened in Bihar from where the governor concerned was transferred recently.
In many universities, teachers are not appointed because the authorities find it more convenient to manage with ad hoc teachers, in which case they also do not have to follow various rules and regulations. For instance, they need not even bother about reservation for SCs, STs and other backward classes. The practice of appointing contract staff in place of regular staff has become common even in central government offices. Thus vested interest is mainly to blame for the high percentage of vacancies in central and other varsities. The president’s directive should provide the impetus to the central and state authorities to fill all vacant posts in universities.