Teachers of Krishnagar Women's College: The Endangered Identities
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"Change may not always bring growth, but there is no growth without change."
- Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
It was on 9th June 2015 that Krishnagar Women's College witnessed a historical change in the field of education with the joining of Dr. Manobi Bandyopadhyay to become the first transgender principal in India. That time ushered the beginning of a new era, a phase that promised to be dynamic and different.
However, shortly after, things started taking an undesirable turn. While the principal was busy making appearance in media and public, for being the first transgender heading a higher educational institution and enjoying innumerable On Duty Leaves, administration suffered partly due to her prolonged absence in college and partly due to her delay in decision making process, even when present. Everyone who had cheered this remarkable step where a person from marginalized community, for the first time, was being so boldly and beautifully represented and mainstreamed, those working under her could not ignore the fact that the college administration had already started to fall apart. By this time, they had also come to realize that the principal would be successful in absolving herself from any charge because of her strong connections and celebrity status.
The first controversy arose when she refused to sign on application forms of two students wishing to get admission at NIT and that controversy triggered a demonstration on the part of teachers and students because already some problems had been creeping in.
Further complications led to her placing her resignation in 23rd December 2016 that was later refused to be accepted by the Higher Education Minister Dr Partha Chatterjee with the promise that things would be resolved.
Things, however, were far from being resolved and the rift between the Principal and the teaching and non teaching staff kept broadening with further anomalies and complexities.
6th July, 2018 turned out to be Black Friday, as things took a bitter climactic turn. This day unfortunately witnessed an unforeseen incident when the teachers of Krishnagar Women's College, unable to put up anymore with administrative failures, finally decided to meet the college administrator - the District Magistrate Mr Sumit Gupta- to inform him about the different administrative anomalies and mismanagement on the part of Principal Dr. Manobi Bandyopadhyay. As the meeting that took place between 12:50 p.m. to 2 p.m. ended, they returned to the college premises to find the doors of the staff room closed. Their entry was forbidden. Quite surprisingly Dr Suman Bhattacharya, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bengali was present in the college for taking classes. Dr Maya Biswas (Sinha), an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry was also in the college taking practical examinations under the University of Kalyani. Despite their presence in the college premises, the staff room was locked with the bags and belongings (mobile, wallet, keys of bike and house, medicine, food) of the other teaching staff locked up inside. Despite repeated requests, the Principal refused to give them access to the staff room, giving the excuse that she took such a step because the teaching members were out of the college premises during college hours without her permission. Quite shockingly the 18 teaching members (11 - male, 7 - female) were not allowed entry and get access to their bags even after the college hours were over on Friday and they were forced to spend one whole night awake on the corridors or in some other adjacent rooms waiting for their release.
In some way, this incident put the teachers in an almost hostage like condition by certain terrifying actions on the part of the Principal.
The Principal was adamant in her decision of not opening the staffroom door even on next working day i.e., 7th July 2018, Saturday. The teachers sat outside the staffroom but resumed taking classes. After lengthy negotiations for over 30 hours from DM office, district police and other higher officials, Dr. Manobi Bandyopadhyay finally consented to open the staff room on Saturday 7th July 2018, in late evening, much after the college hours were over.
It is perhaps for the first time, that teachers of any college have been unlawfully detained by any principal for having raised voices and protest against her high handed policies that have been hampering and disrupting a normal working environment in the college.
The purpose of the meeting between the teachers and the DM on 6th July 2018 purported to place a 9-point deputation, enlisting several problems that require immediate attention and intervention on his part.
1. The main points of the letter include some glaring anomalies in the admission process of 2018-19 session endorsed by the Principal, as well as forcing and threatening the teachers to indulge in such malpractice.
2. Administrative negligence is one of the key issues pointed out in the letter, specially
i. delaying in processing papers relating to:
a. M.phil/Ph.d incremental benefits of teachers,
c. service book update,
d. sending requisition to WBCSC for filling up vacant posts in several departments
e. sending requisitions for filling up 17 non-teaching posts in the office
f. allowing Compensatory Casual Leave in lieu of working on public Holidays
g. lien extension of Smt. Ruth Rhea Khan (Asst. Prof. Political Science deptt.),
h. confirmation after completion of probation period of Dr. Sudarshan Bardhan (Asst. Prof. Mathematics deptt.)
i. issuance of NOC for OP / RC,
j. forwarding UGC-MRP for final report submission by Dr. Suryendu Chakraborty ( Asst. Prof. English deptt.),
k. disbursal of payment to Dr. Suryendu Chakraborty as IQAC coordinator,
l. GPF loan withdrawal by Sri. Gourdas Sarkar ( Asso. Prof. Economics deptt.)
3. The letter includes objection not only to the continuous presence of Sri. Debasish, the so-called adopted son of the Principal, in her chamber beside her during office hours, but also his unwanted interference in several confidential and official / administrative matters of the college.
4. The letter pertinently points to several instances and incidents that make it evident that the teachers are being harassed on a regular basis.
a. The receiving section of the office has been instructed, by the principal, not to receive any applications or letters that may pose trouble for her.
b. Despite being present in the college on 25th May 2018 Sri. Aniruddha Bagchi (Asst. Prof. Sanskrit deptt.) and Sri. Soumitra Adhikari (Asst. Prof. Sanskrit deptt.) were marked absent in the attendance register. In this regard, it is important to point out that despite repeated requests from the teachers to install biometric attendance system, no such move has been made by the principal. The attendance register is also filled up with her haphazard, incoherent scribbles and personal remarks.
5. The letter potently brings to notice, the lack of transparency in the Finance Committee.
a. For long time there has been no meeting or discussions pertaining to finance proposals of the college.
b. The principal has single handedly taken several decisions including sanctioning a Puja bonus of Rs. 4000 to casual non-teaching employees during the financial year 2017-18 that is not permissible under any government rule and regulation.
c. Sudden removal of Dr. Sudarshan Bardhan (Asst. Prof. Mathematics deptt.) from the Bursar post without citing any specific reason is also relevant here.
6. The letter marks certain acts initiated by the principal to create a stifling and suffocating a normal working environment through the installation of an alarming number of CCTVs in the college corridors and even the staff room for constant vigilance while cleverly opting it out for her own chamber to avoid surveillance.
7. Teachers are constantly made targets of harassment and hackling.
a. Sri. Gourdas Sarkar (Asso. Prof. Economics deptt.) and Dr Sanjib Maji (Asst. Prof. Physics deptt.) were falsely accused of sexual harassment and attempt to murder (!), and an FIR was lodged against them by the principal on 14th May 2016 that led to a case at the Krishnagar Judges court but the final verdict has been in their favour.
b. Likewise the teachers are subjected to threats of FIR, verbal abuse, objectionable statements, unparliamentarily comments and personal attacks whenever there is an argument or disagreement over some issue between them and the principal.
8. The teachers also aptly pointed out how the principal is trying to build a muscle power by unnecessarily recruiting casual non-teaching employees and giving them several advantages to intimidate the teachers who protest to her injustice and raise their voice to any misdealing.
a. Despite 17 non-teaching posts remaining vacant, the principal has been going on recruiting casual non-teaching employees on contractual basis.
b. She has also given extension after 60 years of age, to casual non-teaching staff Sri. Mahadeb Roy.
c. Several of these casual employees have even been involved in threatening the teachers with bodily harm, post 6th July, 2018 incident and the principal has simply not taken any action against such incidents.
9. The principal has also misused manpower by improperly allocating staff in departments that are not suited to their abilities.
a. For instance Sri. Pradip Das, appointed as Librarian in the college, has been allotted duty in cash section and Accounts department!
b. She has similarly removed lab technicians of certain departments (Physics, Chemistry) and substituted those positions with people who have no knowledge of handling Laboratories. Such unreasonable shuffling has proved to be damaging not only to the persons involved but also the concerned departments. In certain cases, it has not only affected the smoother functioning of the departments but also lowered the efficiency level and speed of work.
10. Needless to mention the principal has also taken to nepotism and favoritism by giving protection to certain teachers, specially Smt. Bulu Modak (Asst. Prof. History deptt.) who is accused of falsifying academic credentials to get the job, and extended such teachers several advantages.
11. To ensure a proper teaching-learning environment, the college administration should try to facilitate it through providing a proper infrastructure. The principal has paid no heed to the infrastructural development of the college.
a. The college building has portions that are damp stricken and damaged with water leakage, bathrooms with seepage, cracks and fissures in walls and ceilings.
b. The principal hasn't taken any measures to upgrade the library with new books conforming to the new syllabus pattern under CBCS system or to provide computer and net facilities to the teachers for self up-gradation, research and referencing for development of teaching materials and methods.
c. The principal has also formulated certain faulty system for conducting University examinations. She has deliberately chosen certain rooms that are not sufficient for accommodating requisite number of examinees where as she has left some bigger rooms empty without any purpose.
d. The principal has also, without any consultation with the academic routine committee, prepared a faulty class routine for 2018-19 1st Semester, where classes clash - same rooms are allotted with two different classes at the same time, professors are allotted two different classes at the same time, requisite number of classes are not allotted or more class burden imposed on any particular teacher.
Needless to say 6th July 2018 incident has been inhuman, illegal, vindictive and undemocratic. But post 6th July 2018 incidents have been no less traumatic for the teachers serving here.
The teachers of Krishnagar Women's College are still continuing to face the after effects of the 6th July incident. One such consequence has been faced by Dr Suman Bhattacharya (Asst. Prof. Bengali deptt.) who is also 70% handicapped and wheelchair bound. The principal has instructed all casual non-teaching employees not to extend any help or assistance in case he requires going to the toilet. To increase his physical inconvenience, the principal allotted him a 3 hour invigilation duty, alone, in a single room, without any reliever on 6/8/18.
In the past few days, the staffroom computer has mysteriously gone non-functional and no initiative has been taken by the principal to resume it in running condition.
On the contrary Dr. Manobi Bandyopadhyay has left no stone unturned to put the teachers in inconvenience, by denying the teachers to use the net facility on computer or printing from the office, even in case of emergencies.
The main backbone of an educational institution comprises of teachers and students. Unfortunately, the teachers of Krishnagar Women's College, are presently underdoing a phase where the principal through her manipulative nature of control, and autocratic power, is busy to marginalize and cripple the teachers in every possible way.
As part of daily aggression, the teachers are not only made handicapped in all respects but also subjected to a claustrophobic panoptical vigilance that is surely affecting and stifling the spontaneous teaching-learning environment.
Now once again, to look back at the introducing quote- it is quite clear that the perceptible change that happened in the history of Krishnagar Women's College on 9th of June 2015, has been unable to bring any positive growth to the college rather it has stunted the college in many ways. Therefore, it is high time that for the growth of this college there has to be another change - either in the nature and approach of the administration or in the face of the administration altogether, because the post of a Principal is always trans-gendered that is beyond any gender whether male, female or transgender.
As teachers we are not fighting against any particular community but we aim to retrieve our lost grace as teachers which was robbed off from us on 6th July 2018 and is being pulled down from us every day, subsequent to that day. We strongly condemn the misuse of power and authority as principal and any issuance of punishable measures taken from that post just on the basis of bias or in the heat of any moment, whimsically, impulsively and erratically that directly violated our basic human rights. And finally, we strive to relieve ourselves from our present muted existence and release ourselves from any sort of bondage or dominance unnaturally enforced upon us.
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