These are trying times for teachers in dental colleges. Before this column goes to press the right to personal liberty (Article 21 of the constitution) of a highly respected dental teacher would have been decided in a High Court. Until then he will remain under judicial custody for an alleged crime of pulling up a student for indiscipline (1). Can the heads of institutions take criminal responsibility for the unfortunate death of a student who commits suicide because legitimate disciplinary action was taken against the person for violation of the college rules? The tragic death of a young student is painful but can a teacher take the rap for their emotional reaction to a legitimate action? Several High Court and Supreme Court verdicts have laid down norms against police harassment in these situations (2) (3) (4) (5). There are of course instances of genuine harassment and we will need to leave the matter to the Courts of Law to decide.
Teachers in Dental Colleges are also facing an intense crisis with job security. In many ways it is our own doing. In the last 15 years, particularly the decade between 2001 and 2010, has seen a proliferation of dental colleges and increase in seats far beyond the manpower requirements in the country. Some states like Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra have a dentist to patient ratio which has caused enormous unemployment in the profession. In the initial stages this proliferation of dental colleges was a huge bonanza for dental postgraduates due to the teaching jobs in the market . I remember many teachers defended this abnormal proliferation. Growth has a way of subsuming its own existence by shifting demand and supply. These Colleges soon turned out more post graduate dentists, who in turn returned to compete for teaching jobs. The large number of unemployed teachers created through this growth is now threatening the existence of the old teachers in a wage war of plummeting salaries. Now private managements are happy to hire and fire at will, offering pathetic salaries based on market demands. Post graduates cannot find jobs in dental colleges, unless of course more dental colleges are started. This is fortunately not going to happen! In Oral and Maxillofacial surgery, it is predicted that by 2020, 80% of OMF surgeons will not have teaching jobs at the rate at which post graduates are being churned out(6)
The third major area of discomfort is for teachers in administration as Deans and HODs. Many private managements have violated statutory provisions related to entrance examinations, eligibility criteria and excess admissions for monetary purposes (7). Heads of institutions sometimes have to face the wrath of students affected by these decisions. In some instances the Principals and HODs have also been subjected to enquiries by investigative agencies for decisions taken by unscrupulous managements (8). The staff are usually fall guys who have no option but to obey their paymasters!
It is needless to say that in some extreme cases teachers mutely accept non -payment of salaries for several months. This has caused enormous financial and social strains in the job environment.
The solution to this can only come through a broad unionization of teaching faculty to protect their interests. The Dental Council should also lay down service rules in the interest of teachers. A teacher’s organization will have to:
1. To stand up for innocent teachers in the event of unfair actions against them.
2. To protect the salaries of incumbent teachers by creating a national salary structure for all levels of teaching staff and thus prevent under payment of staff
3. To create service conditions that ensures job security and prevent arbitrary firing of teachers on specious grounds
4. To ensure that payment and perks are received by the staff in accordance with service conditions.
In the absence of a system to protect the interests of staff, dental college teachers may have to face an undignified future!
2. Ramesh Kumar Vs. State of Chattisgarh [2001(9) SCC 618
3. S.S. Chheena Vs. Vijay Kumar Mahajan & Anr. [(2010) 12 SCC 190]
4. State of Gujarat Vs. Sunilkumar Kanaiyalal Jain (1997 Crl.L.J.2014)
5. Chitresh Kumar Chopra v. State (Government of NCT of Delhi),
AIR 2010 SC 1446
AIR 2010 SC 1446
6. George Paul, The Future of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, MSN Ginwalla Oration delivered at AOMSI National Conference, Hyderabad November 2012