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PAU Non-Teaching Staff Continue Protest, Initiate Fast Unto Death

As the protest continues and the non-teaching staff escalate their action with a fast unto death, the pressure is mounting on the Punjab Agricultural University administration to address their demands and resolve the ongoing crisis.

Shivam Dwivedi
PAU Non-Teaching Staff Continue Protest, Initiate Fast Unto Death (Photo Source: PAU)
PAU Non-Teaching Staff Continue Protest, Initiate Fast Unto Death (Photo Source: PAU)

As the protest by Punjab Agricultural University's (PAU) contractual non-teaching staff entered its 106th day on Thursday, the protesters have taken the extreme step of initiating a fast unto death. The protesters accuse the university administration of failing to regularize their positions despite over a thousand vacancies remaining unfilled since 2009.

The aggrieved protesters claim that the university authorities have been citing budgetary constraints as the primary reason for not filling the vacant posts and delaying the regularisation process as well as salary increments for the staff.

Jagwinderjit Singh, a representative of the PAU Non-Teaching Employees' Union, expressed that the protesters had been protesting for over 100 days. He mentioned that despite the authorities claiming budgetary limitations as the reason for not regularizing them or increasing their salary, they had been actively advertising to recruit for other positions, such as drivers and gardeners.

The protesters allege that they have brought their grievances to the attention of various politicians, including former Congress minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Aam Aadmi Party MLA Gurpreet Gogi, but their efforts have been in vain. Jasveer Singh, a member of the non-teaching staff union, expressed disappointment, stating that they had conducted multiple meetings with university authorities, politicians, and other stakeholders, but they had consistently been let down. He pointed out that they are currently receiving a meager salary ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per month.

In a display of support, Rashi Aggarwal, the councilor of Ward number 81 and vice-president of BJP Mahila Morcha, visited the protest site. Aggarwal expressed her disappointment, stating that it was disheartening to witness the staff being forced to resort to extreme measures for their legitimate demands, especially after the varsity recently topped the list of state agricultural universities in India.

She further stated that she had encouraged the protesters to draft a letter so that they could attempt to arrange a meeting with Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Cheema. In response to the protest, PAU Vice-Chancellor Satbir Singh Gosal acknowledged the concerns of the non-teaching staff. He explained that due to the limited number of sanctioned posts, they were unable to regularize all of the staff members simultaneously.

Gosal mentioned that the vacancies remained unfilled due to budgetary restrictions. However, he assured that they had brought up the matter with the management board and had decided to advertise regular job openings by Monday.

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