Shillong: The newly floated Voice of the People Party (VPP) today demanded the Meghalaya state government to immediately withdraw its recent notification barring members of the teaching fraternity from holding office of any political organization or local bodies.
The delegation led by VPP president Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit also met and handed over a memorandum to the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma for his necessary intervention into the matter.
The state government had issued the notification barring employees including teachers, lecturers, professors etc for holding office of any political organization or local bodies on November 8, this year.
“We have submitted a letter asking the state government to withdraw this notification. This unconstitutional and discriminatory notification must be withdrawn immediately,” Basaiawmoit told reporters after the meeting.
He also informed that the chief minister had assured the delegation that the government will relook into the notification.
“So, we will wait for sometime and see but we will not stop (demanding) till this notification is withdrawn,” Basaiawmoit maintained.
He said, according to the statement of the chief minister, the government feels that educationists should concentrate more on education adding, “But we argued that we cannot improve education by barring lecturers, professors from participating in politics.”
Terming the notification as only a “knee jerk reaction”, the former Nongkrem legislator also alleged the government of trying to prevent such intellectuals from joining the newly floated political party, VPP.
“We are sure that the government through its intelligent inputs have received information that many more lecturers and professors are in the process of enrolling themselves with our party. So, that is why the government is coming with this kind of notification to prevent and to stop this trend,” he stated.
Elaborating further on the reasons for the demand, the former Nongkrem legislator said that the teachers cannot be barred from participating in politics and holding the post of office in any political organization.
He said this is because the qualifications and service conditions of teachers in universities and colleges in India are governed by the regulations notified by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
“Also, as we know when there is a conflict between the central and state law, the central law always prevails. Therefore, the step taken by the government is very much unconstitutional,” he added.
Basaiawmoit also informed that on July 18, 2018, the UGC had notified the University Grants Commission (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and other Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2018.
He underlined that paragraph 17.0 of the 2018 Regulations deals with the Code of Professional Ethics of Teachers and at serial number (iv) of sub para VII of this paragraph states that teachers should “Perform the duties of citizenship, participate in community activities and shoulder responsibilities of public offices.”
The VPP chief further informed that in May 2019 the UGC made a decision that those teachers in Universities and Colleges who are elected as Members of Parliament or Members of State Legislature can continue their teaching duties while at the same time execute the functions as MPs and MLAs without the necessity of taking any kind of leave if they so desire. Even when taking leave, there should not be any break in their service.
Moreover, he said that it has been well established by the Division Bench of the Gauhati High Court in WA. No. 14 of 2001, dated 07-12-2005 that employees in government aided educational institutions are not government employees.
“What an irony when the government always endorses this order of the high court on one hand and issuing this kind of notification on the other hand. When it comes to the benefit of the teachers, the government always says that they are not government employees but now they issue this notification barring lecturers, professors and teachers as if they are government employees,” he said.
The memorandum also reminded the contributions made by members of the teaching community towards the overall development and welfare of the people in the country in general and Meghalaya in particular.
Meghalaya was able to produce from the teaching community stalwarts in the political field. These included Prof G.G. Swell (who was instrumental for the establishment of NEHU in Shillong), Prof M.N. Majaw (who brought about the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971- one of the finest legislations the Meghalaya State Legislative Assembly has ever enacted), Hoover Hynniewta (an eloquent Member of the 2nd Lok Sabha), Prof R.S. Lyngdoh (the first Speaker of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly), Prof Alexander Warjri, Prof Korbar Sing, Prof B. Pakem, Dr. B.R. Kharlukhi, Prof P.G. Marbaniang and others.
Basaiawmoit also maintained that any attempt to circumscribe teachers’ activities and contributions will have serious ramifications for the society at large and for the future generations.
He further asserted that it is high time that members of the teaching community reclaim their lost political space.
He said that the State at present seriously feels the vacuum left by teachers and this is evident by the lack of quality political leadership and quality debates in the State Legislative Assembly.
“In fact the government should encourage teachers to actively participate in politics as we need intellectual people to govern the state. we need people with vision, we need people with vast knowledge – so we will get these types of people from the teaching community,” he added.