Chennai: The recent suicide of a 30-year-old engineering college lecturer has brought to the fore some harsh realities relating to faculty members of private colleges, like the humiliating ways in which they are treated by their managements and the uncertainty faced by them in their career.
T. Vasantha Vanan, who joined as temporary teaching faculty in the production engineering department of Madras Institute of Technology in the first week of September, hanged
himself to death last Monday after he was allegedly beaten up black and blue by hirelings on the campus of Sree Sastha Institute of Engineering and Technology in Chembarambakkam, near Chennai, where he was working from August 9 to 30.
After completing his masters in engineering with a gold medal from the prestigious College of Engineering, Guindy in 2010, Vasantha Vanan worked in a couple of private engineering colleges. He left his last job as that college management sacked many of his colleagues unceremoniously and retained only his services.
While attending the interview at Sree Sastha, he had informed the management that he had applied for the temporary position with MIT, one of the four university departments of Anna University, and would take up the job if it was offered to him.
But when he received the offer letter from MIT, the management of Sree Sastha Institute refused to hand him back his certificates though he had not even received a month’s salary from the college.
Since the college refused to give him his certificates, he approached the Nasarethpet police for help. But the policemen, instead of filing a case, allegedly handed him over to the management personally. He was taken to the campus and thrashed by hoodlums and threatened of dire consequences if he ever dared to go to the police again.
Humiliated over the treatment meted out to him, the bright engineering postgraduate took the decision to end his life.
N.Deenadayalan, a relative of Vasantha Vanan, said he went to the police only after college management refused to hand over his certificates and harassed him. But the police took him for a ride by calling him for a compromise and handing him over to the management’s goons, he said.
“He sought our help to get back his certificates. We assured him of help. But, he took this unfortunate decision to end his life,” said A.Rajadurai, dean, MIT. He further said the certificate verification for temporary teachers was over before August and the university did not ask him any certificates.
The suicide has triggered angry reactions from the faculty members and many engineering postgraduates employed by private colleges are coming out with their own stories of humiliation and harassment.
Hundreds of lecturers had complained since the death of Vasantha Vanan about illegal contracts that entail managements to get a year’s salary for the return of certificates and instances of withholding certificates, said K.M. Karthik, president of Private Educational Institutions Employees Association.
“Even for genuine reasons, colleges will not allow the faculty members to quit. There are the colleges that had withheld original certificates for several years,” a lecturer said.
In a representation to HRD ministry and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the association demanded a gazette notification mandating educational institutions not to demand original certificates for employment.
It said copies of self-attested certificates should be more than enough for employment in any private educational institution.
The petition also demanded a compensation of Rs 1 crore to the victim’s family from the trust, which is running the college. When enquired about the complaints, many engineering college principals confirmed it and said that even they were helpless in that as the managements insist on such action.
Besides, Anna University’s affiliating team checks every year all faculty members’ original certificates hence keeping the certificates with the colleges has become a must, said a principal, adding that they should verify only the original certificates of new faculty members.
“Due to the low pay and work burden, many lecturers desert the engineering colleges. If they quit the colleges in the middle of the academic year, it is difficult to get the new persons. The colleges also need some kind of grip over the staff members,” another principal justified keeping the original certificates.
The faculty members argued that the grip has turned into a new form of oppression and used to create fear among faculty members by the college authorities.
There are some suggestions like giving permanent identification numbers to faculty members and linking it with the digital depository have been put forth by some senior academicians.
“AICTE should give a permanent identification number to all engineering faculty members. In future, only the permanentidentification number should be used to verify the academic credentials,” principals suggested.
Anna University officials said they receive hundreds of complaints every year with regards to colleges withholding certificates. “After receiving the complaints we will first write to the college. If they fail to return the certificates, then we will summon the college authorities. Most of the colleges will return the certificates.
But, the process will take three to four months,” officials said. Anna University Vice-Chancellor M.K. Surappa said that the university would formulate a rule.
“We plan to introduce a new rule to our affiliation by-laws directing the affiliated engineering colleges not to ask for original certificates from their faculty members. If any college violates the rule, they could be penalized,” Mr Surappa said.
AICTE has taken the issue seriously and it would likely to initiate action against the college management.
“We will seek an explanation from the college as to which rule allows them to keep the certificates of faculty members in their custody,” said Professor Anil D. Sahasrabudhe, chairman, All India Council for Technical Education.
“For verification, they may keep it a day or two and they are expected to return it,” he said adding that the council will make an inquiry to know what happened.
Last year, AICTE has sent a circular asking the colleges not to keep the documents of faculty members or students.
When asked whether there is any provision for penalising the colleges for violating the direction, he said, “The council is receiving more and more complaints from the faculty members. We will make a rule to penalize the colleges.”
The college authorities are not available for comment....