With clenched fists and rousing slogans, hundreds of Delhi University teachers under the banner of Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) on November 27 hit the Parliament Street to emphasise on their demands. Protesters who joined the march said the apathy by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) and University Grants Commission (UGC) have turned their problems into a crisis which is badly affecting their lives. Delhi University teachers have been protesting over a slew of issues including regularisation of ad-hoc teachers and restoration of old pension scheme.
Delhi University, also the biggest university in the country, currently needs 4,500 teachers to teach more than one lakh students. Teachers allege that the entire recruitment process has been put to a halt after the UGC letter dated March 5, 2018, asked the colleges and departments to implement reservation by considering subject as a Unit. They allege that the formula of considering subject as a unit makes it impossible to implement the reservation policy and has brought a significant reduction in number of posts reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Castes (OBC).
Also Read: SCs and STs Biggest Losers in University Recruitment since March
Reserved Posts Reduced
The Centre, through its Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, agreed that the posts for SCs, STs and OBCs will be reduced by 50 per cent, 80 per cent and 30 per cent respectively in Banaras Hindu University. The implication was witnessed in other universities too, where only 18 posts for marginalised communities could be filled whereas the total number of posts remained 706.
In a statement, DUTA President Rajib Ray said, "The appointment process is at a halt and the regularisation of thousands of ad-hoc teachers is dependent on the withdrawal of the March 5 UGC letter asking for implementation of department/subject wise reservation roster and the subsequent freeze on appointments. The DUTA demands that the Government initiate immediate steps to promulgate an Ordinance in the upcoming session of Parliament so that the appointments can begin immediately."
‘Present Crisis Affecting Students’ Choice of Academics’
Talking to NewsClick, former Delhi University Executive Council member Abha Dev Habib maintained that the present crisis has affected academics in a very negative manner. "When students studying at graduate and postgraduate levels see their teachers living a vulnerable life with no job security, they prefer to not choose academics for research. Thus, we are deprived of the best minds in higher education." She added that many teachers have chosen private universities as they offer a more lucrative career.
She further argued that ad-hoc teachers cannot perform certain functions because of their ineligibility which in turn effects their work performance. She said, "Ad-hoc teachers cannot be made head in-charges of the subject, so the impact is two-fold. The administrative burden of permanent teachers keeps on increasing, even when ad-hoc teachers can share work load. Second, when ad-hoc teachers are deprived of these duties, their efficiency also gets affected.”
Also Read: #AdhocsSpeak: Chronicle from Delhi University
The crisis looming large at Delhi University also appears to have taken a toll on the lives of ad-hoc teachers. An ad-hoc teacher who requested anonymity said that their lives have been completely stopped in absence of a secure job. He said, “Hundreds of teachers have postponed their marriages in the hope that they will be regularised one day. We are not even sure that we will remain employed once the Principal of the College or the Head of the Department changes. The situation is even worse in case of the female teachers, who cannot even get leave for their deliveries, let alone maternity leaves."
Another issue of contention between teachers and the university administration is the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme. Rajeev Kunwar, an Associate Professor at Delhi University argued, "The government scrapped the pension scheme in 2004. Now, we do not have an effective public healthcare system and most retired teachers are compelled to approach private hospitals for medicare. How do you expect a retired teacher to pay such heavy bills? That's why restoration of old pension scheme is necessary.”
The teachers have been fighting a protracted battle for their rights and have resolved to continue their struggle until their demands are met.