Today, there is a news item in Hindustan Times which suggests that MHRD is thinking of reducing the maximum age of Directors in CFTIs and also of Vice chancellors in Central Universities from 70 to 65. I have mixed feelings about it.
When a faculty member in these institutes can be given extension till the age of 70, why not Directors and VCs be given extensions up to that age. After all, with so much advance in medical science, people are healthier than ever and working longer. On the other hand, let us understand that such appointments are done almost as a lottery (or worse, sometimes politically influenced), and not based on a solid review of the performance. If the selection is based on a random process, then statistically speaking a younger leader is more likely to perform better, and thus a requirement of being younger may be in the interest of the institutes and universities.
But that is not why I am writing this blog. Actually, I want to talk about the retirement age in general. Why should the retirement age be 65 for faculty, when it is 60 for non-teaching staff in the same organization. If it had come by way of performance evaluation of individuals, I would have no objection to it. But to give everyone a higher retirement age seems counter-productive. We are told that the increase in retirement age is due to shortage of faculty. But is increase in retirement age a solution to that. If the faculty member had formally retired at the age of 60, and is healthy and active, s/he would surely continue to be a faculty member either at the same organization or in another institute/university. So increasing the retirement age does not increase the overall supply of faculty members, but only ensures that they get a right to stay in the same place.
Why should they have a fundamental right to stay at the same place? Shouldn't this be based on performance evaluation and the needs of the organization to have a faculty member in that discipline. Of course, I know the answer. If the extension is on a case to case basis, then politics will play a role. Some good people will not get extension and some bad people will. Is this a good enough reason to oppose discretion. And if this is a good enough reason, why allow this during the age group of 65 to 70. I am not denying that some times decisions on extension will be taken in less than fair way, or at least the perceptions will be that some decisions are based on politics. But the possibility of few bad decisions should not be the basis of a bad policy. After all the loss to the person concerned is very minimal. One can always go to another institute and work there, considering the serious shortage of faculty we face in the country.
I really find it strange that for hard working staff (even if they are fewer in number), there is no avenue for extension and the market place also discriminates against them since there are too many unemployed youth who are willing to work for much less, but for faculty, who has all the options in the world, we want to give an extension (or increase in retirement age) without any evaluation of their contribution.