AKPCTA - IN RETROSPECT
The history of the A.K.P.C.T.A is the history of the fifty three years of restless and relentless struggle by the Private College Teachers for RIGHTS -for human rights, living wages, humane working conditions, security of livlihood and above all for dignity of work and the respectability of the teaching profession. The germinal idea of an organization for Private College Teachers arose as far back as 1932. when the renowned Prof. M.P. Paul and his colleagues of St. Thomas College, Trichur, were humilated by the management by an arbitrary 10% cut in their salary. As Prof. Paul himself said later. (Starvation wages were cut by felt? indiscriminateness).Tnen there were only four or five Private Colleges in Kerala with less than a hundred teachers and there could be no organization to defend their rights and Prof. M.P. Paul had to resign if he was not prepared to swallow the insult. For the managements, teachers working in their colleges were no nobler than dust under their feet. There was the need, no doubt, but the time was not ripe enough for organization.
It was only twenty years later, in 1952 that the Travancore University Private College Teachers’ Union was formed. In 1956 its name was changed to Travancore University Private College Teachers’ Association. After the formation of the Kerala University, at its second convention in 1957, it became Kerala Private College Teachers’ Association. The same year, the Private College Teachers of Malabar and Cochin had organized themselves as Malabar-Cochin Private College Teachers Association - M.C.P.C.T.A. In 1958 these two organizations merged to form the All Kerala Private College Teachers’ Association.
The flag that the infant organization unfurled was not one of revolt. It was only a plea for sympathy at a time when the teachers could hope for it. As an enslaved and famished drove, having no human rights whatsoever, living in Democratic Republic and in a State ruled over by a government which had risen to power fighting for the rights of the working people, the Private College Teachers took the courage to organize themselves. By 1958 the number of Private Colleges, of managements, of teachers and students had increased enormously with the result that the Managements had become a very powerful and organized political and social influence. The university was their game ground and the rulers of the university, their bell-boys. It was a time when the teachers could expect no help or sympathy from anywhere. Any comparison between the teachers of Private Colleges and their counter parts in government colleges was humiliating to both. In pay scales, service conditions, social status and in all other respects, the private college teachers were leagues inferior to those doing the same work in government colleges.
The Association tried to raise its voice against this disparity and the voice was necessarily feeble and quivering. Deputations, memoranda, appeals, resolutions begging for favours all in meek and timid tones tried to attract the attention of Democratic justice to the miserable plight of teachers in private colleges and to the great democratic principle of equal wages for equal work. Even a state government with a massive working class backing could not, in the prevailing political situation do much. But it must be rememered that it was by the joint efforts of Prof. Joseph Mundasseri, then Minister for Education and Dr. John Mathai. the V.C. of Kerala University that the University Grants Commission took a stand favourable to the implementation of its scales of pay for the Private College Teachers in Kerala. But it remained a promise for long. The Association took out a united procession of teachers m academic robes, the first open struggle by private college teachers which raised the brows of many a moralist. In the same year the Association took to another form of ‘docile resistence’ - boycott of university examination work. All this proved too feeble to catch the eyes and ears of the powerful and the mighty.
The A.K.P.C.T.A had, by now learned quite a lot living the life in a social order which had no patience with the whimperings of the weak. In December 1961 it took the decision to resort to direct action with effect from the tenth of January. The move was put off or the assurance given by the Chief Minister that the private college teachers would be given the u.g.c. scales and a grant-in-aid code incorporating provisions for D.A. would be implemented within 3 months. The significance of this achievement, apart from better pay packets for teachers, was that the implementation of the grant-in-aid code would ensure the involvement of the state govt, in the affairs of the private colleges where the Managers were absolute despots.
By means of parliamentary and agitational efforts the grant-in-aid code was implemented in 1962. The managements were pleased for the profits. Still the question of parity with the govt, colleges teachers in pay and service conditions remained unsolved. In most of the Private colleges full and regular payment of salary was still a distant and fond teachers’ dream. They had often to wait for months and to be constantly on the path of struggle, the year 1964 errected a land mark in the history of the A.K.P.C.T.A. The university bodies W till then been out of bounds for the destitute private college teacher. Fifteen of our comrades got elected to the Senate and the A.K.P.C.T.A President Prof. V.R. Subrahmanyam became the first and only non-Principal representative of private college teachers on the syndicate. Inspite of all the attempts to ignore the association reckoned incapable of out growing space between the thumb and finger of the potent managements it was now the champion of the community, standing huge and mighty, head upright and shoulders square. In the place of its infantile whimpering for sympathy and relief there now arose the daring, manly voice of the champion challenging the philistines. It now spoke of teachers’ rights and raised demands. It declared a general strike from February 1, 1965 to get its ‘just demands conceded.’ The state govt, heard the voice and declared the All-India pay scales Rs. 250-50 and the revised D.A. at govt, rates for private college teachers. But the Managements who had nothing to lose by a teachers’ strike saw that they could exploit the situation to their advantage. They refused to implement the pay-scales declared by the government unless the government agreed to increase the grants. The Association stood undaunted by its declaration of strike. The State Government had to accept the managements’ demand to save the situation. The year 1966 marked a great leap forward. The Association for the first time put forward the demand for direct payment by the govt, as the only effective measure to solve the long-standing problems of salary and service conditions. Mosfof the teachers in private colleges had the unenviable status of ‘permenantly temporary’ employees. Ever the permenant could be sacked at the pleasure of the management. Women teachers as a rule, got the axe when they got married; for, the managements became ‘anxious’ of the possibility of their applying for maternity leave and other benefits. In 1963 Kerala Varma College, Trichur and in 1966 Guruvayoorappan College, Calicut, dismissed their Principals. The teachers in Guruvayoorappan, under the leadership of the Association decided to fight the issue out. Five of our comrades went on fast unto death. The Adviser regime appointed a commission to go into the dispute. The Management blatantly refused to abide by Commission’s findings and recommendations. The Association moved into direct action again staging sathyagraha in front of the Calicut collectorate first and then before the Secretariate at Trivandrum. When these steps proved futile, the Association once again declared fast unto death of five teachers. The E.M.S. Government gave the assurance that it would make all possible efforts to persuade the management to implement the Commission’s recommendation’s and that a new Kerala University bill would incorporate statutory service conditions for Private College Teachers. The agitation was withdrawn on this assurance.
The Association called a convention at Trivandrum on January 21, 1968. There was a demonstration in which more than 3000 teachers participated. As per the decision of the convention the private college teachers went on an indefinite strike for the first time demanding a separate chapter in the University Act, spelling out definite conditions of service for private college teachers. The strike lasted for 7 days. The government gave assurances regarding the legislation and did keep them, thus making the Associations’ first direct action a great success. The Act came to be characterized as the ‘Magna Carta’ of Private College Teachers. Unfortunately many of the provisions of the Act were invalidated later.
The managements discerned in all this undisguised signs of challenge to their absolute authority and unleashed acts of victimization. The S.N. management became the self-appointed leader of the war declared by the managements against teachers. It was a struggle that put the A.K.P.C.T.A’s might to test. The Association took up the challenge when the management terminated the appointments of 40 probationers. After a protracted struggle of sixty days the power crazy management was brought down to reinstate 36 of them. The struggle in the F.M.N. College, Quilon, too was a glorious victory. The Association was now strong enough to take up any challenge and there were challenges from quite a number of managements Baselios, C.M.S., Sree Sankara, St. Dominic, T.K.M. College and so on. Each one of these battle fronts contributed immensely to the growth of Private College Teachers’ organized might. True, we had to make sacrifices too.
The struggle for better pay and parity in scales, grades and service conditions with the government college teachers continued unabated. The Association served notice of strike with effect from October 1970
to press the demand for direct payment and parity. In the negotiations the government conceded the demand for parity though the demand for directpayment was deferred. It must be remembered that the Private College Teachers have had to fight for every inch of gain and every fight has been arduous demanding great sacrifice and endurance. The general strike of 1971 was a prolonged struggle from September 15 to November 13. The gain was great indeed. As a result of the continued negotiatious and struggles to support them the govt, declared direct payment for private college teachers and employees with effect from September, 1972, subject to certain conditions on the admission of students, unification of fees and appointment of teachers and other staff. The struggle for better salary and conditions of service on par with the government College Teachers continued with out rest or respite. The token strike of 8th October, ’74, the organized demonstration and Secretariate dharna of 77, the hunger strike of 1978 March, the observation of April 26, ’78 as balck day, the Vehicle Jatha of May, 1979, the preparations for the general strike in July, the Secretariate dharna again under the auspices of the Joint Action Council on June 27, 1980, demonstrations in District head quarters on 5th August, the formation of joint forum of action and agitation of College teachers, all these were mile stones passing which we came to the declaration of the general strike from February 4, 1981. To organize the entire teaching community behind this struggle and to educate public opinion on the just demand of the teachers two Jathas toured the whole state and concluded in Trivandrum with a show of strength and determination on the 24th of January defying the black law of daisnon the vast majority of college teachers rallied on the battle field. The strike was enthusiastically supported by all sections of wage earners and students. It lasted till March 1st when the Action Council reached an agreement with the govt, signed by the Secretary for education. The struggle to get the terms implemented had to be continued and after wating till October, 19,82 the Action Council again launched a programme of direct action which started with a ten days’ relay Sathyagraha before the secretariate followed by 48 hour hunger Sathyagraha in the State and Disrict. head quarters on 18th December.
The struggle for Rights which began with feeble weeping and moaning, in the course of the these decades grew into the manly claim and demands of a mighty organization which, with the support of the whole democratic movement in the state, could win many of the needs of private college teaches. In the course of this evolution arose immemerable local struggles contributing mightily to the momentum of the movement gaining in the mean while encouragement and support from all sections of the people inspired by democratic consciousness. The A.K.P.C.T.A. has now become an integral part of the democratic movement in the State.
The role played by the A.K.P.C.T.A. in the popular and student struggle against the proposed Pre-degree Board was great indeed. In educating the public on the evil intentions and motives of the sponsors of the Pre-degree Board to sell out the whole field of higher education to retrograde vested interests the caders of the Association made significant contribution. In fact all that we had gained through the sacrifices of more than quarter of 3 century, all that the people of Kerala had achieved through their democratic struggle since Independence would have been held at ransom had the vested interests succeeded in putting the proposal through. The Association made its contribution by means of the hunger Sathyagraha from May 29 to July 4 the token strike of June 6 and the general strike which lasted from June 11 to July 4.
Our Association is now a major factor in the university and college teachers movement which is a very significant factor in the democractic movement in the State. During the struggle in 1987 forUGC Scales and grades it became the most militant unit of the National movement of university and college teachers. We are conscious of the fact that we have yet to go a long way, that it is not the time for complascent slee, but for tireless action in unremitting struggle, that the teacher’s liberation lies inextricably bound with the liberation of the whole society, that ultimate fulfilment of our aspiration will begin only when the old, outdated order changes yielding place to new. The struggle we started in the person of Prof. M.P. Paul aboui half a century ago was taken up by hundreds and thousands, was intensified to glorious heights by our Association during the last thirty years of its history and the struggle has to be carried forward.