AFFECTED LANDOWNERS JOINED BY 4 ORGANISATIONS TO DEMAND PREFERENCE FOR LOCALS AND TRANSPARENT RECRUITMENT PROCESS
GANGTOK, 23 March: Affected landowners of the Sikkim University campus slated to come up in Yangang in South Sikkim and a clutch of youth organizations, protesting what they see as an unfair recruitment process underway at the University, launched a two-pronged challenge against the University with simultaneous protests at the SU Management Block down at 6th Mile on NH 31A and at the University’s guest house, Visitor’s Residence, at Development Area. The two groups were intent on protesting what they see as the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mahendra P Lama’s sidelining of local interest in the recruitment process, and dispersed only after they received confirmation that the interviews of Junior Assistants [LDC] called for today had been postponed. The protestors are demanding the scrapping of the entire recruitment process undertaken by the University to fill 45 posts of non-teaching staff on permanent basis.
At Development Area, the crowd of protestors left after they were given a copy of a Sikkim University notice issued by the Registrar stating: “Due to Unavoidable Circumstances, the interview for the post of Junior Executive [LDC] stands postponed.”
The gherao at the two locations was undertaken by members from Sikkim University Development Committee of Yangyang [made up of affected landowners], Sikkim Sachet Swarojgar Berojgar Sangathan, Ravangla Aastha Organisation, Sikkim Yuwa Samaj and Tumin Youth Association who were joined by youth from in and around Gangtok and other parts of the State.
The protestors were also accompanied by some of the prospective candidates who complained that they received intimation of the interview only a few days back when they should have been allowed at least two weeks advance notice to prepare and make arrangements to attend the interview.
The protestors started gathering at the two locations at around 9 a.m. this morning. Strong police presence at both places ensured that no untoward incident transpired although there was extensive heckling, sloganeering and shouting from the protestors who were waving banners and placards denouncing the VC.
As the number of picketeers at the Management Block swelled, they poured out on to the highway from their earlier perch along the footpath and held up traffic for nearly two hours between 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Their immediate demand was a cancellation of the interviews for the post of Junior Assistants and they remain insistent that affected landowners have been left out from the recruitment process, which, they contend, was carried out shoddily and in complete disregard to prescribed norms.
At the SU Visitor’s Residence, the protestors had made it to the lobby inside when they first arrived. Soon, however, on the intervention of the Sikkim Police led by SP [East], Dr MS Tuli, the protestors were convinced to take their protest outside where they carried on their slogans. There was surge when at one time word spread that the interview process had begun inside. There was adequate police presence at the spot to keep the crowd back and soon communication arrived that the interview had been called off.
Speaking to media persons, SUDC president, CL Gurung, complained that the vacancies had not been advertised widely enough and argued that while the VC had assured jobs for affected families, nothing had materialized thus far. He added that 41 applications from members of affected families and 200 from local educated unemployed youth from in and around Yangyang had been submitted to the VC back in 2009 itself, but not a single of these had led to placement in the Unversity.
Mr Gurung argued that the interview notice of vacancies in SU should be published in all local newspapers and not just on the SU website so that enough people learned of the opportunities. He argued that locals should be given preference and threatened to launch a much larger protest against the VC if the recruitment process was not made more transparent.
Upon seeing the restive mood of the protestors, the District Collector [East], D Anandan and the SP [East] intervened in the matter and mediated for CL Gurung accompanied by two more protestors to meet the Registrar and discuss their demands. The trio emerged with SU notice announcing the postponement of the interview and the gherao was lifted for the day.
Speaking to NOW!, Mr Gurung informed that the Registrar, while postponing today’s interview, also assured them that dates for all future interviews will be published in all local newspapers.
The protestors then proceeded to call on the Chief Secretary and express their reservations on the manner in which the VC was conducting the recruitment process. They returned from the meeting with the CS that he would earnestly take up their demand that no further interviews be held until the entire process was made transparent.
“On the basis of the Chief Secretary’s assurance, we have halted our protest for today but if the interviews continue we will launch our programme on a much wider scale,” members of the five organizations which participated in today’s protest said.
In this regard, it is learnt the HRDD Secretary, CS Rao, has written to the VC, sharing that “in case of non-teaching recruitment, the people are agitated to the extent that they have started disrupting normal public life by way of blocking the national highway”.
“In order to tackle the situation tactfully, it is requested that all the ongoing interviews for non-teaching staff to be kept in abeyance till the situation returns to normalcy,” the Secretary writes to the VC in a letter dated today.
The SSSBS president, Karma Gyurmie Bhutia, addressing a press conference this evening, alleged that the entire recruitment process at SU was extremely suspect and so poorly managed that these could have been rigged to favour a select few.
In this regard, he pointed out a section of Assistant Professors who had first exposed the extensive procedural lapses in the recruitment process have now been expelled from the University after they were harassed with withholding of their salaries and show-cause notices. He demanded that his organization was also demanding justice for teachers at the University who have stood up against the VC and have been victimised.
As for the land acquisition process, those representing the affected landowners informed today that they have already vacated their lands handed it over for the University. They alleged that the VC has not been in correspondence with the concerned authorities to take over the land. This, they contend is being done because operating from rented buildings was proving more profitable.