TISS Dismisses 115 Contractual Employees Across 4 Campuses, Including Guwahati

Among the teaching staff, the breakdown of those dismissed includes 20 from the Mumbai campus, 15 from Hyderabad, 14 from Guwahati, and six from Tuljapur.
TISS Dismisses 115 Contractual Employees Across 4 Campuses, Including Guwahati
TISS Dismisses 115 Contractual Employees Across 4 Campuses, Including Guwahati

In a significant and sudden move, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has dismissed 55 faculty members and close to 60 non-teaching staff members without notice across its four campuses. This action has notably impacted the Guwahati campus, where half of the teaching staff and all non-teaching staff have been let go.

The dismissed staff, many of whom had been with the institute for over a decade, were all contractual employees. The reason given for their dismissal was the non-receipt of grants from the Tata Education Trust, which had been funding their salaries.

Among the teaching staff, the breakdown of those dismissed includes 20 from the Mumbai campus, 15 from Hyderabad, 14 from Guwahati, and six from Tuljapur. The remaining teaching staff at TISS campuses are permanent faculty members on the University Grants Commission (UGC) payroll.

Faculty members have linked this development to changes in UGC regulations, which, in June last year, brought TISS under the central government’s purview of appointments along with other deemed-to-be universities receiving over 50% funding from the Centre. However, the TISS administration has denied any connection between the two events.

“The institute tried its best for the release of the grant from Tata Education Trust for the purpose of salary. The institute made several attempts for the release of the grant through official correspondence and personal meetings with the Tata Education Trust, but the decision regarding the further extension of the grant period has not yet been received,” said an email from the office of the officiating registrar, Anil Sutar, to the dismissed employees. The email, sent on Friday evening, added that “in the event of non-receipt of approval/grant from Tata Education Trust,” their services would end effective June 30.

When contacted by the media, head of communications at Tata Trust, Deepika Surendra, directed queries to a PR agency, which requested that questions be emailed. At the time of this report, there was no response to the email.

“Our annual contracts actually ended in May, but at the beginning of this month, we received an email requesting us to continue with institute work until the Tata Trust funding is renewed. So, there was an understanding that the contracts would be renewed. Until yesterday, most of us were working on our online admission duties and by the evening, we received this letter. I have worked here for 11 years, and we had been asking for longer contracts for a while. We haven’t even been given a month’s notice period as stated in our contracts. We have just been given two days to fill a no-dues form to claim our June salaries,” said a faculty member from TISS Guwahati.

“Yesterday was the last day of MA admissions, and most of us were involved in that process despite not having formal contracts since May 31. We were also working to revamp the entire Masters program in compliance with the New Education Policy during this period. All faculty members worked to develop the new syllabus and courses were allotted for the upcoming semester. We had no inkling that they would not honor the commitment given to us,” said another faculty member from the Guwahati campus.

“All these positions were created under various schools and centers run by TISS on the basis of funding from the Tata Education Trust. Most of us have been working for as many as 10-15 years, including in positions of responsibility such as center heads. We are unsure how the institute plans to run the courses after this arbitrary dismissal of such a large number of employees without having an alternative ready,” said a faculty member from the Mumbai campus who requested anonymity.

On Saturday, the TISS Teachers Association held an urgent meeting to discuss the matter.

According to the institute administration, it has approached the Tata Education Trust multiple times in the past six months. The administration was required to submit a proposal for the continuation of the grants, which they said they had sent. “While there is no direct communication from the Trust that they are going to discontinue the grants, there is no other communication too, making it difficult for the institute administration to sustain,” said a member of the administration.

“The institution has already written to the Tata Education Trust. A committee has been formed to pursue the matter with the Trust. If the grants are received, this can be reverted. But in case of no change in the situation, there is no alternative. The institute will have to find alternative ways to run the courses,” said Acting Vice-Chancellor Prof Manoj Tiwari.

According to a member of the administration, there are plans to propose that the same faculty members work on an hourly basis to enable teaching to continue, while also preparing a complete roster of required positions to issue advertisements for regular appointments.

“All affected people were on the payroll of the Tata Education Trust. The government refused to absorb them, and the Trust has washed its hands off since the government takeover itself was a plan on its own,” said a senior TISS official in Mumbai.

“The dismissed faculty members were not just NET-passed PhD scholars but individuals selected by a highly regarded panel of the Tata Education Trust. The selection process considered their social backgrounds and commitment to social sciences. Many of these professors turned down lucrative offers from newly emerged private universities in Delhi and other metropolitan cities because of their dedication to TISS' style of social science research and interventions. Unfortunately, this is an outcome of the push for uniformity,” said another official.

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