ESMA is UGC’s new trick to dissolve autonomy of public universities

The UGC is doggedly pursuing any means by which it can undermine the autonomy of universities like Delhi University and JNU by thrusting CCS and ESMA Act on them.

New Delhi: The Attacks on education in India continue under the new government which has tried its best to undermine the teachers and students studying in public funded institutions in India.
Sabrang India had earlier reported that the UGC (University Grants Commission) had imposed Central Civil Services (CCS) conduct rules, 1964, on Jawaharlal Nehru University in September amid discontent and criticism from JNU teachers.
“A university produces new knowledge and teaches it. But to do so, it needs independence of thinking and the freedom to dissent and act on that dissent. The CCS rules will remove these freedoms,” JNUTA had said in a statement.
It has now come to light that the UGC will now try to dissolve the Delhi University’s autonomy by bringing Exams, Teaching, Learning and Evaluation under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA.) This being done at the behest of MHRD and the ESMA Act was passed by the Modi govt.
The Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) has promised to resist this attack on their democratic rights.
“At the behest of the MHRD, the UGC has constituted a Working Group to study the Delhi University Act, 1922 and explore possible alterations that may dissolve the University’s institutional autonomy and suspend the democratic rights of its academic community. Specifically, the UGC Committee has been asked to consider bringing Exams/ Teaching/ Learning/ Evaluation under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). This comes immediately after the UGC’s directive to all central universities to adopt CCS rules for teachers. The DUTA condemns this vicious attack on the academic community’s intellectual autonomy and the violation of its moral prerogative to nurture free thinking and democratic values,” they said.
They said that this was another way in which the government has been aggressively pursuing policies of commercialisation and privatisation in higher education.
“Teachers unions like DUTA have been at the forefront of protests and creating public opinion against such policies. The DUTA has also exposed the Government’s brazen attempts to encourage the entry of big businesses and profits in higher education, at the cost of the educational rights of the economically weaker sections and socially marginalised groups of citizens. The DUTA’s continuous efforts in this regard have contributed to a critical public awareness of the anti-people aims of this Government. As a result, this Government is resorting to tactics that will silence the DUTA and compel teachers to mutely submit to its authoritarian measures,” the statement by Rajib Ray, President and Vivek Chaudhary, Secretary of DUTA said.
The ESMA was promulgated in 1968 in order to ensure that people’s lives and public order would not be endangered due to the cessation of critically important services.
The Act includes services like the post, telegram, public transport, defence and more. It gives untethered power to the police to arrest anyone without a warrant. “Power to arrest without warrant. Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, (5 of 1898 ), any police officer may arrest without warrant any person who is reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under this Act,” says a provision of the Act. The Act will expose many teachers and students to unprecedented risks and political vendetta. It has the possibility of becoming a lethal tool in the hands of the govt.
“To try and bring university teachers under ESMA is a draconian and foolish move as teachers are not mere service providers. Teachers are creators and disseminators of knowledge and informed opinion. The Government’s move to curb the democratic rights of teachers through ESMA and CCS indicates desperation and nervousness about introducing changes that cannot stand up to academic scrutiny,” they said.
“The continuous failure of the Government and DU Administration to fill up thousands of vacancies, the continuous denial of pensions to retired teachers and the continued failure to implement the Reservation Policy in appointments have created an exceptionally unstable situation for which the government is squarely responsible. Instead of trying to address these issues that are integral to the health of Delhi University and the morale of its teachers, the Government has resorted to bullying teachers into submission,” they said.
DUTA said that they will fight back the threats as they have in the past. “The DUTA urges the Government to view its own failures in a sensible light and stop harassing teachers. It demands immediate dissolution of the Working Group and an end to any further attempts to impose ESMA or CCS rules on university teachers. If the Government fails to heed this appeal, it will have to face tough questions in the coming days. The DUTA is driven by the broadest public consensus on issues pertaining to higher education; hence, it will not be cowed down by threats and tantrums of a Government that is loath to be reminded of its responsibilities. The DUTA has successfully fought back attempts in the past too to bring universities under ESMA and will do so even now.
Sabrang India had reported how the CCS rules would drastically change the education environment meant to work for the marginalised.
“The imposition of these rules implies that economics professors can be punished for discussing economic policy; political scientists can be punished for discussing politics; environmental science professors can be punished for discussing environmental policy; scientists can be punished for discussing government science policy etc. All educationists can be punished for expressing their views on educational policy. Through this notification the role of both academics and civil society has been criminalized!” the JNUTA said.
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