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'Saving Education' Can't be Separated From 'Saving Constitution', Say Teachers, MPs on Displacement

Delhi University teachers allege the recruitment process for assistant professors was tampered to accommodate candidates close to the Sangh Parivar.
DU Teachers press conference

New Delhi: Amid reports of mass-scale displacement in Delhi University, teachers of different universities and MPs from different parties came together at the Press Club of India on Thursday to address a press conference concerning development in the central universities. 

The teachers of Delhi University have been alleging that the recruitment process for assistant professors has been tampered to accommodate candidates close to the sangh parivar (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh sympathisers). Recently, Laxman Kumar Yadav, a popular Bahujan teacher, was ousted from Zakir Hussain College after 12 years of service.

Read Also: My Career has Been Ruined Because I Have a Different Opinion Than Them: Laxman Yadav

Addressing the press conference, Prof Apoorvanand, who teaches at the Department of Hindi at Delhi University, said there were three ways to control the universities: syllabus, recruitment, and the process of running the universities through administrative takeover,which was worrisome. 

He said, “The best universities in the world always gave their departments autonomy to determine their curriculum. The process of setting the syllabus was never centralised. However, we are seeing a different process altogether at Delhi University, where the syllabus is fixed somewhere where the consent of the departments has been hardly taken and gets passed in the statutory bodies. The process raises the questions on teachers themselves.”

Second, he said, the process of recruitment has been opaque, where logic has taken a backseat. "A 100% weightage was given to the interview. It ignores several crucial indicators such as the experience of teaching and number of articles and books published, and if the candidate completed his PhD. Thousands of teachers at Delhi University who have been teaching for decades have been displaced. It clearly means that they were eligible for teaching. If they were eligible for so many years, how can they suddenly become ineligible in an interview which hardly lasts two minutes?" he asked.

He said the university should furnish answers on why precedence was given to just master teachers over people who spent years getting their education.

”It is important to learn that the current recruitment will have a lasting impact on public education institutions in the country. The teachers who are being appointed will appoint new teachers down the years and it is assumed that they will select inferior teachers too because superior ones will give insecurity to them. Private universities spend a lot of energy and time in selecting each candidate. If public universities are not adhering to the standards, the children from marginalised sections will be the victims of the new system,” Apoorvanand added.

D K Lobiyal, president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA), said  universities were witnessing misuse of transparency and elimination of transparency in recruitment.  “Delhi University is a classic case where transparency has been misused to appoint people close to Sangh Parivar. You call 200 persons, assess them in two-minute interviews, and ultimately appoint the person whose name has been written on the slip.  In JNU, we have witnessed the elimination of transparency, where candidates do not know who is appearing for the post. One would fill in his form number on the website to know if he has been selected in the list of eligible persons or not,” he said.

Lobiyal said, “We are seeing the same set of experts appearing in every interview. For experts, we already had a good practice where departments would send names, and vice chancellors would select two names. Now, the process has been dismantled in the sense that Vice Chancellors will appoint their favourite people as heads and deans. So, there is no scope for opposition. If our MPs are suspended in the parliament, so as teachers are threatened and promotions stopped.” 

Nandita Narain, former president of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), said that the question goes beyond the university, and assault could be seen in education itself through the introduction of the Common University Entrance Test (CUET).

 “It is well known that poor students overcome different barriers to access education, and the job of the government is to remove these barriers to let every child learn. However, we are seeing a new barrier in the form of CUET. You would need extra coaching classes to crack the test, which hardly tests you on reasoning and logical ability. Parents in rural areas hesitate to spend on girls' education and prefer son’s education. The results are clear in front of us. The universities have lost a significant population of female students. I could see the difference in my class, too, where the students from Southern India and states like West Bengal and Odisha disappeared. The students who would learn about the diversity of the country are not there,” she added.

P Wilson, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), who was suspended along with other Opposition MPs, said that saving education cannot be separated from the struggle of saving the Constitution. 

“I have been vociferous about l vacancies in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. We got a reply from the Department of Law and Justice that out of 601 posts in High Courts, 457 have been taken up by one upper caste community. A similar situation appears in Secretary and Joint Secretary Posts in the Central government, too. BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has been protecting the interests of this particular community. If it were really the well-wisher of the backward classes, it would not have opposed BC's quotation in medical admissions. Thus, the fight to save the country must be fought on lines of freedom struggle only,” he said.

Addressing the press conference, suspended Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha said the government may have acted in a reckless manner by suspending 145 MPs from the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. “It is clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party is not invincible, and it knows the bitter truth, too. The government backtracked on three incidents when people hit the streets: the farmers' movement, the SC/ST Roster and the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act,” he said.

Jha Continued, “We often become sad at the state of democracy in the country. All constitutional posts have been occupied, and the processes have been dismantled. Yet, I remember the great people of India who fought the mighty government rather than giving up the struggle and emerged victorious. When the roster issue emerged, very few parliamentarians knew the technical details. I had to take a class on the issue literally. But when we people understood it, they were on the streets.”

The RJD leader, who is also a teacher, added that the government has forced teachers to quit teaching, wrestlers to abandoning wrestling and parliamentarians are not being allowed to do their work.  

“I must say that when an MP is suspended, his questions too are suspended. I had asked the questions on Delhi University and ongoing displacements. One can see that questions were uploaded on the website of Rajya Sabha but the government did not answer them because we were suspended. I asked questions about numbers the candidates declared not found suitable from marginalised backgrounds. It is worrisome that the recruitment at Delhi University is done through a cocktail of caste, Manuvada (society governed by Manusmṛti) and corruption. A colleague mentioned an incident where new recruit denied taking classes as he had already paid the bribe,” Jha said.

 “Let’s be clear that even if Opposition parties win the 2024 parliamentary elections, it will take 50 years to undo the damage inflicted on the institutions by the Sangh Parivar. I have been saying that BJP may manage Parliament. So, they are not afraid of Opposition. They are worried that they will not be able to manage the streets, and that keeps our possibilities alive,” he added.

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