Delhi University (DU) teachers on Thursday observed a one-day strike against the removal of 12 ad hoc teachers from Vivekanand College amid the raging pandemic. While classes remained suspended during the day, the teachers expressed their anguish by showcasing placards demanding their immediate reinstatement and the removal of acting principal Dr. Hina Nandrajog.
The teachers whom Newsclick spoke to maintained that their peers were removed at a time when five out of the 12 were battling COVID-19. The teachers in question were removed on April 30 owing to a reduction in “work load”. The twelve teachers served in the Economics, Commerce, Computer Science, English, Food Technology, Mathematics and Environment Science departments. DU employs as many as 4,500 ad hoc teachers who are periodically reinstated at regular intervals of four months. These teachers maintain that their working conditions remain exploitative. Even several teachers who were pregnant have been compelled to serve without any maternity leave.
One of the teachers who requested anonymity told Newsclick that the decision to discontinue their services was devastating for them. "The ad hoc teachers in DU generally postpone their marriages and family planning until some sense of stability is achieved. I served the college for eight years and expected that it would stand by us in darker times. The decision gave me sleepless nights and inexplicable mental trauma. Who will give us a job amid a pandemic? It did not even care about an eight-month pregnant teacher who was simultaneously battling the coronavirus!”
Speaking to Newslick, Rajib Ray, who heads the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA) said that it was "inhuman" to take away jobs when the country was witnessing harrowing stories of pain and suffering.
"A similar situation had come up in the past when the administration removed teachers. We had to protest on each occasion and they were allowed to rejoin. Given the pandemic, we could not physically visit the principal. So, we requested her to allow them to rejoin this time as well. This is a blatant violation of the December 5 letter by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development which clearly stated that no ad hoc teacher would be discontinued from their posts. How can they do it when people need their jobs most for survival!” Ray added that the governing body of the college had even cleared their joining with a resounding majority.
Ray, in a press statement, said the teachers’ body demand “Hina Nandrajog be immediately removed from office as Acting Principal as she has already completed 5 years of tenure and should not be allowed to continue beyond 5 years in violation of the Delhi University rules, regulations and ordinances.”
In a scathing note, Ray added: "DUTA has been drawing attention to the fact that these 12 teachers have been teaching in this college for the past several years. The longest serving teacher amongst these 12 has been teaching since 9.1.2014 and others have been teaching since 2016 and 2018. It is a matter of great shame that the Acting Principal has taken away the livelihood of such teachers at the time of a national health crisis when these teachers and their families are struggling to cope.”
Rajesh Jha, former Executive Committee member, DU said that the college principal was vehemently ignoring precedents and legalese while taking decisions. He said that the letter written by the MHRD on December 5 categorically said that the colleges would not retrench ad hoc teachers unless their positions had been filled.
"These ad hoc teachers perform every task to keep the college running without any hassles. Now, all of sudden they are removed during the pandemic when your Prime Minister is saying otherwise. Ordinance 18 of DU clearly maintains that a college can employ an ad hoc teacher when there is a vacancy for more than four months. If these posts have been vacant for many years, why did the college not fill up vacancies with permanent staffers? The fact is that the college and the university are breaking their own laws just because they can exploit these teachers without paying any maternity leave, sick leave or study leave.” he added.
Jha went on to add that if the roster was not properly made, why should teachers bear the brunt for the fault of college administration. "We complained to the university against the roster and it is still lined up there. Why should there be any haste? The whole episode suggests that the principal and chairperson of the governing body no longer care for rules and the democratic process,” he said.
The governing body of the colleges remains the highest-decision making body for its affairs. Recently, in a meeting, the governing body had decided to continue with the removed teachers.