Prof Digambara Patra of the American University of Beirut has urged the Chief Minister to take steps for solving the manpower problem in most Government autonomous colleges in the State. A non-resident Odia (NRO) who hails from Kalahandi district, Prof Patra expressed concern over a decision to strip Rama Devi Women’s College at Bhubaneswar, Gangadhar Meher College at Sambalpur, SCS College in Puri and Government Autonomous College at Bhawanipatna of College with Potential for Excellence (CPE) status for a period of five years.
These four institutions are top higher educational institutions in their respective regions. GM College Sambalpur and Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna were identified as CPE in 2004-05 and extended up to end of 11th Plan period, whereas RD and SCS got the CPE status in 2009-10. The failure of these colleges in implementing UGC norms is not solely due to National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grade rather than failure of the State Government to address serious concerns of all the Government autonomous colleges in the State.
Although the Higher Education Task Force has recommended filling up all the vacant lecture posts in Government colleges in priority basis, this has not yet been taken up by the State Government in past five years, except partly meeting the teaching need with contractual instructors. When contractual instructors do 60-90 per cent of the teaching jobs- for example Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna has less than 20 % regular teaching faculties- in such a case, how could a college having CPE status improve research qualities and overall infrastructure development to emerge as a center of excellence in higher education nationally that was the key motivation for CPE status?
Most importantly none of the Government autonomous colleges in Odisha has any regular Principal to run an institution since more than a decade. Presently, temporary Principals in charge head all the Government autonomous colleges. This makes implementation of various schemes slow and daily administration poor. Perhaps, with a recent proposal by the State Government to upgrade RD, Khallikote College at Brahmapur and GM to universities would not affect financially much to these colleges after they lose the CPE tag. However, autonomous colleges like SCS and Government Autonomous College, Bhawanipatna, etc will suffer most due to lack of these CPE funding.
The Government Autonomous College, Bhawanipatna was among the very few colleges, which received national recognition as CPE status in the first phase by the UGC despite being located in one of the most backward and poverty zones in India. Such UGC funding is crucial for overall growth of an institution in a backward pocket. Thus the State Government should give first priority to such institution. As a first step, the Government should appoint regular Principals, professors, readers and lecturers in the manpower deficient colleges soon, said Patra in a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.