The unending delay in release of grants to 12 state government-funded Delhi University colleges, “restructuring” of the nature of these colleges and above all, how the latter will only worsen the prevailing crisis in public-funded higher education – these were among some of the focal points of an outreach programme carried out by the varsity teachers on Saturday, March 27.
Teachers in Delhi University, which boasts of having over 90 colleges affiliated to it, have been staging a strike, thereby leading to a “varsity shutdown” since March 11.
Leading the strike action, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) has accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for pushing the “dismemberment” of the 12 concerned colleges from the central university, while demanding an assurance of no more delay in the disbursal of teachers’ salaries in these colleges.
A delay in the release of funds to the colleges by AAP government, that had led to the non-payment of salaries “for more than 4-6 months” to the teaching and non-teaching staff, had triggered a teachers’ strike earlier this month.
On Saturday, with an aim to take the “movement beyond campuses”, the teachers’ association organised a “Jan Samwad”, like a public awareness programme. As part of it, groups of striking teachers, accompanied by a coordinator, took to five metro stations in the city and engaged with the general public regarding the ongoing protest.
Rajib Ray, DUTA president, said, “The aim of today’s programme was to engage with the people of Delhi not only on the issue of salary delays of teachers in the 12 colleges, but to also make them aware about the Pattern of Assistance document and how it will restructure the governance of the colleges that are fully funded by the Delhi government.”
Also read: Withdraw Pattern of Assistance Document, Shutdown Strike to Continue: DUTA
Nearly 5,000 pamphlets were distributed today, Ray told NewsClick, pegging the total number of people who were approached, under the programme, at about 50,000.
As the issue of delayed funding by AAP government came to the fore recently, prompting the varsity to write to the Directorate of Higher Education, Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia had stated that since the institutes receive funds by the state government, the Pattern of Assistance of the Delhi government must be followed. The comments triggered once again the major question running through the ongoing protest over the relationships of the 12 colleges with the Delhi government, DU, and the University Grants Commission (UGC).
DUTA has maintained that while the colleges are funded by the Delhi Government, they are in fact ‘constituent colleges’ of DU and are thus governed by rules and regulations of the central varsity, which are formulated within the framework of UGC rules.
“This Pattern of Assistance document is a prelude to massive restructuring of these colleges that would inevitably lead to dismemberment of these colleges from Delhi University,” DUTA had earlier argued in a press statement dated March 24.
Ray, on Saturday, said that the adoption of the Pattern of Assistance document will also have repercussions on the public, since the document is prepared on the lines of some of the provisions suggested in National Education Policy (NEP).
The NEP 2020, approved by the Union cabinet earlier last year in July, outlines a vision which will lead to privatisation and commercialisation of public-funded higher education, according to Ray. “They are pushing for the self-financing model in the colleges. The past experiences have clearly suggested that it leads to increase in fees charged from students, among others,” he said.
Rajinder Singh, secretary, DUTA, who was a coordinator for the outreach programme at Rithala Metro Station on Saturday, said that the response of the public to the issues raised by teachers was good. “The teachers have been striking since over two weeks now. It was important to let the public know about the issues and seek their support in the ongoing movement,” he said.
He further told NewsClick that the extended body of DUTA executive members is scheduled to meet on March 31 to decide the way forward.
Also see: DU: Teachers Protest Non-Payment of Salaries and Attack on Independence of Colleges