JNU asks teachers to return travel allowance paid as part of salary during lockdown because of WFH. What happens next?

The JNUTA said that the university administration does not seem to consider the efforts the teachers put in to keep the classes going even during the lockdown
Image for representational purpose only (Pic: PTI)
Image for representational purpose only (Pic: PTI)

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration, in a notice, asked the department heads to certify the physical attendance of the staff members from March 23 till May 20, 2020. If they haven't been to the office on those days they would have to give back the travel allowance. While this is in compliance with the directive from the Ministry of Finance, the teachers pointed out that in those months everyone was stuck inside so the procedure of sending an attendance roll is "bereft of all logic".

But how much money would they have to pay back? JNU, being a Central University, pays salaries in accordance with the Seventh Central Pay Commission's recommendations. While the academic staff will lose a little above Rs 8,000 per month (on average) — more than Rs 24,000 for the three months listed — the non-teaching staff will lose Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 depending on their pay level — which could mean about Rs 15,000 for those three months.

The JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) also said that the university administration does not seem to consider the efforts the teachers put in to keep the classes going even during the lockdown. "We had to make do with whatever equipment we had at home to ensure that we were able to continue working online. For online teaching, the faculty had to spend from their own pockets to pay for data connectivity and paid software packages to support the uninterrupted holding of classroom sessions online. The (administration's) attitude has been that we are having a gala time working from home. But they do not consider the fact that there is no concept of timing left anymore," Dr Moushumi Basu, Secretary of the JNUTA. "I remember raising the issue of difficulties of conducting vivas from personal accounts at an Executive Council meeting. Why would have to log in from my private Zoom account to conduct vivas? Why can't JNU provide portal access? It was dismissed stating that there were provisions in place. But to date we have been conducting vivas from our personal accounts," she added.

The teachers also pointed out that the casual workers have not been paid for months now. "The sanitation workers, computer operators, mess staff and gardeners have not been paid salaries. The sanitation workers are on strike for the past week. Many of the workers have been forced to borrow money at exorbitant rates over the last few months to make ends meet. Some of them were paid for only a month and a half and that entire sum went towards repayment of these loans. The JNUTA has arranged for some dry rations for them but the administration has not done anything," added Dr Basu.

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