The employees of 12 colleges of Delhi University funded by Delhi Government are out on the streets demanding their basic right to wages. The employees allege that they have not been paid their salaries for the last five months, leaving them in uncertainty and indebtedness amid a raging pandemic.
The tussle between the colleges and the Delhi Government began after the latter accused principals of stalling the formation of governing bodies. These bodies administer the affairs of these educational institutions. The situation worsened further when Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia levelled charges of corruption and misappropriation. Amid charges and counter charges, the real losers here are the employees who have been forced to run a family without salary for consecutive five months.
Kirti (name changed), a teacher in Maharaja Agrasen College, started teaching few years ago after completing a PhD in English. Recalling the earlier days, she said, “I have been teaching for the last few years and this is the first time when we have been deprived of our salaries for five consecutive months. Why should teachers bear the brunt of a tussle that has nothing to do with it. Ad-hoc teachers in Delhi University have already no social benefits like leaves, maternity leaves etc.”
She went on to add, “Despite this sudden blow, we continue executing our teaching and non-teaching work but the question is till when? We are living amid a pandemic and nobody knows when someone will get hospitalised...Once I used to take pride in my work. That pride has gone now. I think it has started affecting my work now. I think the government does realise that my salary is a human right and they cannot deny it.”
However, despite the crisis, Kirti is confident about her intent to serve in a public university. She said, “Frankly speaking, Delhi University offers the best opportunities a teacher can have. I have taught in I P University and a private university and everything is not hunky dory. This private university, even when I had all the qualifications, offered me Rs 48,000 as salary. That’s less than the salary of a school teacher. How would one expect justice when you are not starting at a fair note. Delhi University has a strong mechanism where your grievance can be addressed. So, the idea proposed to shift to private universities is preposterous.”
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Sanjeev Kaushal, an assistant professor of Hindi at Indira Gandhi Institute of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, too, shared the pressure of his income being stalled for several. Kaushal, a teacher for 18 years, said, “Which middle class family has the savings to run its household for five months? Imagine, you have a running home loan too. No school would allow your children to attend classes without fee. I have experienced all this within a brief span of five months.”
To a question on whether he felt if the government is undermining their jobs by not paying salaries, Kaushal, also a DUTA executive, said, “I think the overtures of the government undermines education itself. To suggest that students should pay the salaries of teachers is nothing but back door entry of privatisation in public education institutions. If Delhi University implements such a proposal, 80% students who come from poor families will vanish.”
In a recent press conference, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia had argued that colleges should use the students fund accumulated over the years to pay teachers’ salaries. However, the proposal was vehemently slammed by Delhi University Teachers’ Association which said entertaining any such idea would be force university into private hands.
Dr Hemchand Jain, principal of Deen Dayal Upadhyay College, another institution funded by Delhi Government, said the college will completely shut down if they do not receive their grants. Talking about the ordeal he is facing, he told NewsClick, “My college has received a payment notice from the electricity company that they will disconnect the connection if the payment is not made. We have already lost the internet connection. We have more than Rs 3.5 crore due as property tax. Our teaching and non-teaching staff is literally seeking alms for survival. You have turned the employees of the top 15th college college in the country so vulnerable! An employee had to withdraw money from his provident fund for his surgery whereas in a regular situation he would have got an advance from the college. This is certainly not the way a college can be run.”
Also read: DU Teachers Move HC Seeking Direction to Delhi Govt to Pay Past 4 Months’ Salary
Responding to the allegation of corruption and misappropriation, Jain said, “Delhi University admits 60,000 new students every year. Did you ever find that any admission was done by taking money? We evaluate more than 10 lakh answer sheets. Did anyone receive complaint that marks were altered by taking money? Certainly no. Our reports are audited annually. We follow the standards laid by the government. Manish Sisodia said a college has given Rs 25 lakh as donation. Why does he not name the institution? The answer is no institution did such transaction. The allegation is false and baseless.”
Jain also opposed the proposal of utilising the students fund for paying the salary. He said, “We are not authorised to utilise the amount. The fund is meant for students’ academic and cultural activities. The rules are very clear about usage of the fund. Today, Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry Jean-Marie Lehn is addressing our students. We would have no such programmes if we use the said amount.”
He further questioned, “Is Delhi Government suggesting that we should stop conducting programmes for academic excellence? By suggesting such means, it is hinting to go for privatisation. It is indeed getting implemented in Delhi College of Engineering and Netaji Subhash University of Technology run by Delhi Government itself where the fee runs into lakhs. Do we want to implement this model for our students?”