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By Dr Kumar Mahabir
Schools, colleges and universities worldwide have been closed since March 11, 2020 when COVID-19 was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic.
But for 69 lecturers of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the door was shut against them since May 11, 2018 – two years ago. Like the outbreak of COVID-19, there was no warning. These lecturers were ambushed with retrenchment letters in the middle of the semester while teaching students in class.
The dismissal letters gave them seven days to take their personal property and vacant the premises. They were caught off-guard with mortgages, loans, rent and bills to pay as well as families to feed. They were suddenly without a job and medical insurance.
The stay-at-home retrenchment order was triggered to these “surplus” lecturers who had become “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” Was their forced quarantine justified? Let’s look at the facts and revelations, using my situation as a case study.
My teaching load was higher
In all its internal and external releases, University of Trinidad and Tobago has declared that lecturers’ teaching load (as opposed to work-load, which would have included research and service) was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.
UTT’s disclosure to my Freedom of Information (FOIA) application after I was dismissed states that I was carrying a teaching load of 70.8%, excluding Practicum. However, there were other Assistant Professors who had considerably lower teaching load percentages, but were not selected for retrenchment.
Some of them had scores as low as 15%, 28%, 35%, 38%, etc. In fact, of the 20 Assistant Professors who were retained, only two (2) or 10% had higher teaching load percentages than mine.
Although my teaching load percentage (70.8%) was higher than most of my former colleagues, who were retained, I should have earned yet a higher teaching score had it not been for an error and contradiction on the part of UTT.
University of Trinidad and Tobago’s disclosure to me after I was fired reveals that the PRACTICUM courses I taught were not counted as part of my teaching load. However, the same PRACTICUM Term 2 courses (PRAC 1002 and PRAC 2002) were counted for my colleagues, Additionally, a PRACTICUM Term 3 course (PRAC 2001) was counted for others but not for me.
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These errors and contradictions by UTT are important to note because the university has declared that lecturers’ teaching load was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.
These errors and contradictions in computing the teaching load scores for me constitute bias, inequality, unfairness and injustice in selecting me for retrenchment. These mistakes and paradoxes resulted in my dismissal which caused me grave humiliation, pain, suffering, stress, trauma and rejection as well as loss of income, status, dignity, pride and institutional affiliation.
Was this Programme really being phased out?
In many of its releases and correspondences, University of Trinidad and Tobago has stated that I and other lecturers were retrenched because the Secondary School Specialisation courses which they taught were being phased out as part of the university’s restructuring exercise.
At the dismissal meeting at the Centre for Education Programmes (CEP) at UTT, administrator Dr Judy Rocke also told the assembled lecturers that all Secondary School Specialisation courses were being phased out, resulting in us being “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” The following facts reveal that this statement is not true.
These same courses were timetabled for a NEW cohort of students during the new semester which began in September 3, 2018. These Secondary School Specialisation courses are taught from Year 2. One of these courses which was not phased out for the new Year 2 student-intake was ANTH 2001- Caribbean Cultural Anthropology, which I taught. After my retrenchment, I was replaced by a lecturer who was not qualified to teach ANTH 2001.
Substitute lecturers not qualified
The Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) made the following written disclosures to me, dated August 23, 2019. Its Executive Director, Dr Eduardo Ali, stated that my substitute lecturer was “not qualified to teach” ANTH 2001. Additionally, Dr Ali stated that another substitute lecturer teaching the course TVOC 2003: Job Task Analysis in Semester 1 during the Academic Year 2018-2019 at CEP was also “not qualified to teach the said course”.
I began my tenure at UTT as an Assistant Professor in January 2007 – longer than most of my former colleagues, who held Ph.D. degrees in CEP. My latest Performance Management and Appraisal Process (PMAP) appraisal score dated October 3, 2017 was 95 out of 100. This score was given, approved and endorsed by my immediate supervisor, Dr Judy Rocke, who paradoxically selected me for dismissal.
My skills and qualifications are more diverse than those of most of my former teaching colleagues. My M.Phil. degree is in the Humanities (Literatures in English) and my Ph.D. is in the Social Sciences (Anthropology).
Dr. Mahabir is a former Organization of American States (OAS) Fellow and the recipient of a Government National Award for Education.
By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Officials of the Indian space sector, both serving and retired, are of the view that the space sector's organisational structure is expected to mirror that of India's atomic energy sector.
They also said that senior officials of the Indian space agency should address the employees on what is happening in the sector and how it will pan out so that uncertainty and confusion are addressed.
In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is at the top, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the sectoral regulator while the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (both power companies), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, and IREL (India) Ltd are public sector units (PSU).
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The Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre (BARC), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) are the premier research and development (R&D) organizations and there are several DAE-aided organizations.
While the DAE is headed by a Secretary (normally from the R&D units) who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the R&D centres and PSUs are headed by different persons.
Similarly, the government that has started the space sector reforms seems to be replicating the atomic energy model, several officials told IANS.
"The Central government's moves in the space sector seems to replicate the atomic energy model," an official told IANS.
Currently, the Department of Space (DOS) is at the top and below that, comes the private sector space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) with various R&D-cum-production (rockets, satellites and others) units.
The sector has two PSUs - Antrix Corporation Ltd and NewSpace India Ltd.
Unlike the atomic energy sector, the Secretary of the DOS and Chairman of the Space Commission is also the Chairman of the ISRO.
As part of the space sector reform measures, the government has set up IN-SPACe as a regulator for the private sector players.
"Ultimately there will be only one sectoral regulator. There cannot be two regulators - one for the private sector and other for the public sector. Who will be the regulator if there is a company that is floated in public-private partnership," an official asked.
"It is good that there is a separate sectoral regulator outside of the DOS and the ISRO," an official said.
The recently-formed PSU NewSpace India has been mandated to build, own satellites, rockets and also provide space based services and transfer ISRO-developed technologies to others.
ISRO Chairman and Secretary DOS K.Sivan has been saying that ISRO will focus on high end research.
As a result, the positions of Secretary, DOS and Chairman, ISRO may not be held by the same person.
"Looking forward, there are possibilities of the government coming out with a voluntary retirement scheme for ISRO officials and merging its various production centres with NewSpace to synergise its operations," a former senior official of ISRO told IANS.
"But there is one issue in this proposition. For ISRO, the production centres are also its R&D centre. Both production and R&D are interwoven. One has to see how both will be separated to be housed under ISRO and NewSpace India."
Meanwhile, the minds of ISRO officials are filled with uncertainty and confusion about their future which is linked to that of their organization.
ISRO Staff Association General Secretary G.R.Pramod had told IANS that there is "uncertainty all around about the future of about 17,300 employees of ISRO".
"The ISRO top management that includes the Chairman and the Heads of various centres should come out openly and address the employee concerns at the earliest," an official added.
Space sector reforms are a much-needed move on the part of the government. | Unsplash
Also read: ISO: Achievements and History
According to officials, the uncertainty in the minds of ISRO officials is due to the communication from the government to freeze all recruitment as sectoral reforms are underway - allowing the private sector players in making and launching of satellites and rockets.
The ISRO officials also told IANS that promotions for several categories were kept on hold for the past two years. The promotion exercise for some has been carried out recently.
"Further the number of rocket launches this year from India came down drastically to just two from six or seven per year at an average. Out of two one critical mission for the country had failed," an official said.
However, the unanimous view is that the space sector reforms are a much-needed move on the part of the government so that the resources are used economically.
"For a long time, satellite utilization was an issue. Perhaps the satellites will be launched based on the demand from now onwards. The days of launching a satellite to utilize the rockets and then, searching for customers should be over," an official remarked.
Curiously, officials said all these years, ISRO had not approached its commercial arm Antrix to find out what the market needs so that it can build and launch such satellites.(IANS/PR)
Keywords: Atomic Energy, Satellite, ISRO, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), DOS
Twitter has announced to ban sharing of private media, such as photos and videos, without permission from the individuals that are shown in those images.
The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour under its policies, the expansion of the policy will allow the platform to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it's posted without the consent of the person depicted.
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"Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm," Twitter said in a blog post late on Tuesday.
"The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorised private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options," the company informed.
Under the existing policy, publishing other people's private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter.
This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivising others to do so.
"There are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," Twitter said.
When Twitter is notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorised representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, it removes it.
Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced his resignation | Unsplash
Also read: Twitter to label Accounts of Government
This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.
The expansion of the policy came after Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced his resignation, with Indian-origin CTO Parag Agrawal taking over the position.
Twitter in September rolled out a feature called Safety Mode that temporarily blocks certain accounts for seven days if they are found insulting users or repeatedly sending hateful remarks.
Keywords: Twitter, Feature, Private media, Permission
Driven by a surge in digital transformation owing to the pandemic, the IT spending in India is forecast to total $101.8 billion in 2022, an increase of 7 per cent from 2021, global market research firm Gartner said on Wednesday.
In 2022, all segments of IT spending in India are expected to grow, with software emerging as the highest growing segment.
Spending on software is forecast to total $10.5 billion in 2022, up 14.4 per cent from 2021.
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While experiencing a slower growth rate than 2021, spending on software in 2022 is forecast to be nearly double of what it was pre-pandemic.
"India has experienced one of the fastest recoveries despite being one of the worst hit regions in the second wave of the pandemic in early 2021," said Arup Roy, research vice president at Gartner.
As hybrid work adoption increases in the country, there will be an uptick in spending on devices in 2022, reaching $44 billion, an increase of 7.5 per cent from 2021.
The growth in devices is a combination of two componentsUnsplash
Also read: Eight Growing Job Sectors in the US
"The growth in devices is a combination of two components – hybrid work and pent-up demand from 2020 for device upgrades," said Roy. "Spending on devices will make up 43 per cent of total IT spending next year."
Next year, Indian CIOs are prioritizing a move away from rigid and monolithic ways of doing business to a more composable business and IT architecture where they will be able to better respond to disruptions.
"In 2022, CIOs in India will build on renewed interest in technology from the business to gain funding for new IT projects," said Roy.(IANS/PR)
(Keywords: IT sector, Pandemic, Highest growth, Digital Transformation)