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IIT professors on hunger strike

September 5 was celebrated as Teachers’ Day across the country. It was a day to make the teachers feel special and remember and honour their contributions.

“This day is special to us because of you, our fraternity of teachers who have distinguished themselves in the meritorious list of award list. You deserve not only our congratulations but also our gratitude,” Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said at a function.

But from school teachers to IIT professors, they surely weren’t feeling as special. The teachers protested across the country and the message seems to be clear – respect is not enough, we want better salaries.

It was a message, which in some places was greeted by the lathis of policemen.

Primary school teachers of the government-run Navodaya Vidyalaya in Lucknow were lathicharged. In Bhopal 3,000 teachers were beaten up as they took out protests march.

“For 364 days the government exploits us and then on Teachers’ Day, they felicitate us. They just want us to live meagerly without paying us. That’s the government’s mentality,” one of the protesting teachers said.

Even the faculty members of IITs across the country also went on a day-long hunger strike after getting no response from the HRD ministry to their recommendations on the Sixth Pay Commission.

“We want to recruit the best, so we must give them the best pay also. IITs have flowered with a vision of excellence, a dream for the future and an autonomy from mediocrity. We want to maintain that. With the pay scale proposed we are set to lose out to industry and academia abroad,” said Soumya Mukherjee, Professor, IIT-Bombay.

IIT professors across India had asked for:

  • Over 100 per cent increase in pay scales to attract talent
  • Bring professors salaries at par with scientists in government institutes and
  • A monthly compensation of Rs 15,000 for faculty members when they lose pay studying to become PhDs.

The last time IIT professors went on a hunger strike was 20 years ago. The reason – the Fourth Pay Commission. Two decades down the line, it is the same story. But professors insist it isn’t just about the money. It’s also about preserving the quality and class of institution called IIT.

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