On Thursday, the teachers of Delhi University observed one day strike against non-payment of salaries to teaching and non-teaching staff of 12 colleges fully funded by Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi Government for the previous five months. The teachers and non-teaching staff of the colleges maintain that the crisis arising out of pending legal cases, technical errors, and government apathy exacerbates daily livelihoods, with many resorting to taking loans to pay their EMIs and meeting other needs.
Udai Veer Singh, Assistant Professor of Electronics at Acharya Narendra Dev College, told NewsClick that the crisis severely affects teachers' mental health, which in turn affects their teaching capabilities. Talking to NewsClick over the phone, Singh said that the savings of the permanent teachers are exhausting, with some using their distress funds as fixed deposits to meet the expenses now.
"With what mood will you teach your students when you too are asking your friends and relatives for money to pay the school fee of your child. We have been executing our jobs with utmost honesty, and the salaries are our basic right. Still, Delhi Government is not paying us grants to pay salaries, medical expenses and pensions. I have not received my salary for the previous two months. Technically, we are unpaid for four consecutive months. My college used the student society fund to pay the salaries for two months. Once the college receives the grant, it will replenish the fund."
Singh explained that the fund cut coupled with erratic grants from Delhi Government is worsening the infrastructure in the colleges.
"When we did not receive the salaries for the first time in last months of 2020, we approached the Delhi High Court which asked the Delhi Government to release its grants but approaching courts include a hefty legal fee. How many times can teachers approach the courts for our salaries? Now, the colleges ask us to physically visit colleges and teach students online. When I went to the college, I found that much of our infrastructure was crumbling. Our labs desperately need a revamp. Our sports ground looks like overgrown grasslands which have not been trimmed in months. Electricity, Water and other charges are already piling up. The most unfortunate part about the crisis is that the Delhi Government has yet to fix the problem. Neither is it saying if Principals and Bursars committed any wrong, nor is it coming up with a solution. Its silence is hurting us terribly!"
Delhi Government funds 28 colleges in all – 12 fully and 16 partially. The 12 colleges are Indira Gandhi Institute of Physical Education & Sports Science, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, Shaheed Raj Guru College, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, Acharya Narendra Dev College, Bhagini Nivedita College, Keshav Maha Vidyalaya, Maharaja Agrasen College, Aditi Mahavidyalaya, Maharishi Balmiki College of Education and Bhaskara Charya College of Applied Science.
Sixteen colleges that the Delhi government partially funds are Shivaji College, Motilal Nehru College, Laxmi Bai College, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, Maiteryi College, SPM College for Women, Satyawati College, Vivekanand College, Rajdhani College, Kamla Nehru College, Gargi College, Swami Shardhanand College, Kalindi College, Bharti College, Sri Aurbindo College and Delhi College of Arts and Commerce.
Bhupinder Chaudhari, a teacher at Maharaja Agrasen College, told NewsClick that his colleagues have been awaiting salaries for the last five months and paying a hefty price for a tug of war between the Delhi Government and the Delhi University. He added that the state government is not listening to its governing bodies.
"The crisis is rooted in Delhi Government's proposal that the memorandum of understanding signed between these colleges and the Delhi University at the time of their formation suggested that these colleges should arrange their funds and it will only pay the deficit money to run the colleges. It advised the colleges to use their student society funds to pay their salaries. The colleges are of the opinion that it can not be used for the purpose and moved to the court for resolution. Since the matter is sub-judice, the Delhi Government stopped the funding of the colleges abruptly. However, the court has not ordered yet that it should stop the funding until the matter is resolved. If we go by the proposal of the Delhi Government itself that it will only pay the deficit, at least it should release grants until the matter is resolved. Any deficit/surplus can be adjusted later. The abrupt halt has a human cost. Many faculty and non-faculty members are delaying their treatment. The worst affected section remains about pensioners who depend entirely on their pensions to run their livelihoods."
Sanjeev Tiwari, Principal, Maharaja Agrasen College, told NewsClick the institution did not receive any funds to pay their salaries for the last five months.
"My staff is not getting salaries for the previous five months. Beyond this, I cannot say much. The governing body has already apprised the situation to Delhi Government."
Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Singh remained unavailable for any comment on the issue.
In a joint statement, Delhi University Teachers Association and Delhi University Principals Association said that one is at a loss to understand the systematic assault on the premier institution, which has been rightfully accorded a place mandated to generate critical thinking. In this background, the repeated attempts to withhold grants in aid of twelve colleges funded by the Delhi Government in the last two years, resulting in non-payment of salaries, promotion and seven cps arrears, pensions, medical commitments, educational allowances, maintenance of college building and infrastructure, payment of Property Tax, Electricity, Water, etc. run contrary to the basic yardsticks of people's livelihood, constitutional provisions and natural laws of governance. The two associations urge the Government of Delhi to release grants in aid due to the twelve colleges so that normalcy is restored in these colleges and academic excellence doesn't become a casualty.