Teachers and non-teaching staff of the Delhi University (DU) staged a protest on Monday to press for the immediate release of funds to colleges funded by the Delhi government, the delay in which has resulted in salary being due for many.
The protest, jointly called for by the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) and Delhi University and College Karamchari Union (DUCKU), saw a gathering of around 100 protestors outside the Delhi Vidhan Sabha.
The unions have alleged that sanctioned grants have not been released to the 12 DU colleges that are fully funded by the Aam Aadmi Party-led state government. In addition to their salary woes, the non-disbursal of funds has also led to non-encashment of the medical bills and retirement benefits, among other benefits.
There are a total of 28 colleges affiliated to DU, which are funded, fully or partially, by the Delhi government.
In a press release issued on Monday, DUTA called it “criminal” on the part of the Delhi government to withhold salaries. The teachers and employees came out on the streets on June 26, despite the risk of getting infected, as they “did not have any other option but to take this drastic, medically unwise, step to come out and physically protest,” it said.
Bhupinder Chaudhary, an associate professor at Maharaja Agrasen College, one of the colleges fully sponsored by the state government said: “We have not received salaries for the month of June. Even for May, we were told that the college faced problems in paying monthly payments after which amounts were transferred from the capital account to clear dues.” The grants must be released to the colleges at the earliest, failing which our salaries will remain pending, even for the coming months, he added.
According to reports, the issue of the non-formation of governing bodies, a statutory group responsible for taking all administrative and financial decisions, at these colleges, has led the AAP government and the administration of DU – a central university that receives grant from the University Grants Commission (UGC) – to lock horns. Both parties accuse each other of delaying the process.
As a result, allegations of delay in granting funds to colleges against the AAP government have been flying around since 2019, and have persisted even during the pandemic.
Last week, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia asked the Directorate of Higher Education (DHE) to initiate legal proceedings against the varsity in a letter. He wrote: “...the regularly constituted governing bodies of many of the colleges that are partially and fully funded by the Government of NCT of Delhi have not been reconstituted, and the colleges are functioning with truncated governing bodies since March, 2019.”
This, however, shouldn’t allow the government to let colleges face a financial crunch, believes Balaram Pani, Principal of the Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences. “Out of the 140 names, 134 has been approved by the university administration in the month of March this year. The executive council (EC) (the university’s highest executive body that supervises setting up of the governing body) had reservations with regard to six names, which were then sent back for reconsideration. Now, the EC meetings have been adjourned, keeping the COVID-19 situation in mind,” he told NewsClick.
Multiple attempts made to reach DHE officials for a comment yielded no results.
Pani admitted that it is “unfortunate” that the college staff has had to bear the brunt of the deadlock. Teachers were partially last paid for the month of May at Bhaskaracharya College, after students’ fund was diverted; salaries for the outsourced staff, including security guards, sanitary workers have been pending since March, he said.
Abha Dev Habib of DUTA said: “The delay in releasing grants earlier began as an ugly political tussle over the formation of governing bodies. But, we have now been informed through unofficial means that the Delhi government doesn’t have funds (most likely due to the pandemic). Either way, the government cannot penalise the employees and destroy the institution by delaying grants.” Adding, she said that there is a “complete lack of dialogue” from the AAP government. “The office bearers of DUTA demanded to hold talks but it went unheard,” she said.
As days pass, a sense of apprehension only increases for teachers and employees, with no clarity over the payment of their salaries. Ravi Shankar Ravi, assistant professor at Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, said that they are already living in the fear of an infection and “our day-to-day lives are further disturbed by non-payments of salaries.”
Not releasing grants might be a ploy to build pressure on the varsity’s administration, Ravi alleged. But, such “arm-twisting tactics” are misdirected against teachers and employees – who play no role in the formation of the governing bodies, he added.