Students and teachers alike have never minced their words about the education system in India collapsing. After the student protests in JNU and neighbouring IIMC against exorbitant fee hikes, the teachers of Delhi University have risen to demand their rights.
In response to the Delhi University Principals’ Association’s (DUPA) decision to put joining of ad-hoc teachers and disbursal of their salaries in abeyance, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) called for an indefinite strike on December 1.
— Anjani Kumar Rai (@raianjaney) December 5, 2019
The teachers are protesting against the university’s decision of appointing guest teachers for posts instead of making ad-hoc faculty permanent.
DUTA had put forth a set of demands to the Vice Chancellor (VC) YogeshTyagi – withdrawal of the August 28 circular and the counting of past services for promotions as granted by DU ordinances. It had given three working days to the VC to agree to their set of demands.
However, with no response from him, on December 4, the DUTA took the decision to go on an indefinite strike and threatened to ‘gherao’ the VC’s office for ‘not taking any concrete steps to resolve the crisis.’Even as exams were ongoing at the university, the DUTA urged teachers to boycott official duties. They made sure that no child would be forced to drop out of the exam and there were no complaints on the same front.
Later, almost 5,000 teachers entered the Viceregal Lodge Estate that houses the office of the VC. The Indian Express reports that the teachers assembled at the North Campus’ Faculty of Arts, finding their way to the VC’s office complex. The Delhi Police was put on guard with water cannons should things get out of control, the Navbharat Times had reported.
At around 11:30 am, the teachers broke through the lock on gate number 4 that led to the administrative block and marched towards his office. The access to the same was blocked by barricades and locked gates.
The ad-hoc teachers, members of DUTA and even permanent teachers expressing solidarity to their cause numbered in thousands, charged the council hall where executive and academic council meetings are held. However, the VC was absent at the time after which the protest intensified.
The walls of the viceregal lodge were filled with graffiti carrying slogans like ‘our right, absorption’, ‘VC resign’ and ‘abhikaro, urgent karo, sabko permanent karo’.
The DUTA President Rajib Ray stated that the graffiti and vandalism was the job of the teachers.
They said they would continue to occupy the building till their demands were met. Proctor of the varsity, Neeta Sehgal wrote to Rajib Ray (DUTA President) asking him and the teachers to “vacate the unlawful siege of the building immediately and leave the place peacefully.”
Their protest has garnered support and solidarity from various institutions that have been fighting for the cause of affordable and quality education.
JNUSU stands in support of DUTA.
March on Professors, we are with you. Arbitrary circulars, issued without consulting all stakeholders, are absolutely unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/96SjNb9lq1
— JNUSU (@JNUSUofficial) December 4, 2019
— Tarseel (@Tarseel1) December 5, 2019
SFI extends solidarity to the indefinite strike called by #DUTA against the VC-Government Nexus to destroy the healthy academic environment of DU and to implement measures in line with the anti-teachers and anti-student DNEP 2019.#SFI
— Mayukh Biswas (@MayukhDuke) December 4, 2019
Start of the unrest
On August 28, the VC had issued a circular to the DUPA stating that the appointment of ad-hoc teachers as faculty members would be stopped and instead the appointment of guest lecturers who would be paid on an hourly basis would be taken up.
As reported by The Wire, ad-hoc positions are filled when permanent faculty retire, resign, pass away or go on leave. Ad-hoc faculties usually have 16 hours of teaching and take a monthly salary as fixed by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
The circular issued by the VC informed, “The colleges are…advised to fill up the permanent vacancies at the earliest and till permanent appointments are made, Colleges may appoint guest faculty, if required, against new vacancies arising first time in academic session 2019-2020”.
Though the circular is clear about new vacancies, many DU college principals interpreted it in a way that they refused to renew contracts of ad-hoc teachers who were already in service stating that if somebody’s contract ended and it was renewed, it would be regarded as a “new vacancy arising first time in academic session 2019-2020.”
Following this, not only did most DU colleges not renew contracts of ad-hoc teachers, but also denied them their salaries for November. The teacher’s found out about this after their contracts lapsed and while they were invigilating for ongoing exams, without officially being part of the university.
In its general body meeting (GBM), DUTA decided on a complete evaluation boycott of the semester examinations and an indefinite strike starting the second week of January in case the HRD Ministry and the DU administration did not change their mind.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has conducted an extensive meeting with the VC and DUTA and decided that all ad-hoc teachers who worked or are working in the current academic year will be allowed to continue till the next academic session or till recruitment of permanent faculty, whichever is earlier.
— R. Subrahmanyam (@subrahyd) December 5, 2019
However, people are seeing through the letter as just a mere re-wording of the August 28 circular stating that once the current academic session is over, the university plans to go ahead with the appointment of guest teachers for the session of 2020 – 21.
While the DUTA has welcomed the amendment in the circular, it has said it won’t give up its strike till all its demands – unfair wages, complete absorption of ad-hoc faculty and pension payments have been met.
Earlier this year, DUTA had protested against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for its decision to stop funding 28 DU colleges. They accused the government of repeatedly stopping the funds leading to delayed payments and other reimbursements, especially hitting the ad-hoc faculties the most.
This is just another step in the privatisation of education, say students and teachers like. From the non-payment of dues to the sly appointment of guest teachers putting the future of 4,500 teachers at stake, the current situation at DU is just another example of how the education system has taken a hit for the worse.
Only work, no pay: 40,000 teachers in K’taka not paid salaries since September
Delhi University condemns lathi charge on JNU students
Thousands of teachers to cease work in West Bengal colleges today
Diploma in elementary education invalid for recruitment says NCTE