Leaflet, 11.5.98

Teachers must not be defeated by betrayal. We must remain committed to the fight for our legitimate demands.

The DTF congratulates the teachers of Delhi University for the resolve they have demonstrated in the struggle for better pay-scales and service conditions. The successful implementation of the DUTA’s call for examination boycott from 14th April, and the unanimous decision of the massively attended General Body Meeting on 28th April to reject the HRD Minister’s humiliating pay announcement and to carry forward the struggle stand testimony to this resolve. But the DUTA leadership, and the political forces with which they are associated, have now engineered a dramatic twist of events in which our collective struggle has been replaced by a situation where the mass of teachers has been reduced to passive spectators while their future and the future of the teaching profession is decided.

The machinations of the DUTA leadership, and particularly the President, with the clear political objective of sabotaging the teachers’ struggle have been visible from the very beginning – in the form of attempts to demoralise teachers, shocking violation of democratic norms, and other designs to change the content and form of the struggle without approval of the General Body. Having been constrained by the groundswell of opinion amongst teachers and their collective pressure, the NDTF leadership of the DUTA has now resorted to open and shameless betrayal of the teachers’ cause, sadly with the connivance of S.S. Rathi’s AAD. Even the pretence of struggle has been virtually given up with the withdrawal of the examination boycott which was then termed a “brilliant victory”. That, in the battle between teachers and the HRD Ministry the NDTF has acted as the agent of the HRD Ministry, is obvious.

Violation of Democratic Norms

The violation of democratic norms by the President of the DUTA and his group have crossed all limits in this struggle. The DUTA GBM of 28th April had mandated that the examination boycott should continue, negotiations should be within the framework of the UGC recommendations, and that staff associations should meet in all colleges. One by one the President dumped all these decisions. While staff associations met and sent their resolutions to the DUTA Executive, the President refused to place these resolutions before the Executive despite repeated demands. The positive suggestions of different staff associations were wilfully ignored. In particular many had said that the DUTA should take steps to create a more favourable public opinion for the teachers’ case but the DUTA President did nothing. It is only thanks to the independent initiative of some teachers in the form of providing material to the media or writing articles that some favourable media coverage has been achieved. The President’s role on the other hand was one where even official decisions of the DUTA were not communicated to teachers, neither directly nor through the media. Every teacher would have seen newspaper reports on the decision of the DUTA Executive with the rider that the President was unavailable for the official version.

The President and his group even unilaterally, without authorisation of either the Executive or the GBM, changed the demands of the DUTA in the form of the now infamous nine-point letter to the HRD Minister signed by the President and the Joint-Secretary in which the demand for implementation of the UGC recommended pay scales and promotional facilities was given up. Mr. Inder Kapahy openly declared in a meeting (what the HRD Minister had said some days ago) that teachers should forget about the UGC pay scales. The gross abuse of his position by the DUTA president in meetings of the Executive was most blatantly demonstrated when he refused to accept a majority opinion for calling a GBM and even went to the extent of refusing to allow tabling of a resolution which merely proposed holding of a GBM. Rather than calling a GBM on his own, as would have been apprpriate, the President has refused to acknowledge either the requisition submitted by over 50 teachers including most members of the Executive or the appeal signed by 921 teachers urging that a GBM be held before the court hearing.

Irrespective of the appropriateness or otherwise of the decision to withdraw the examination boycott, it will remain an undeniable fact that such a major decision was taken without consulting the mass of teachers, and that too when not one but many occasions were available for holding a GBM.

The Court Case

The court case which has been used as the pretext to withdraw the examination boycott is nothing short of a clear cut conspiracy to pressurise teachers into submission. The HRD Minister who announced the pay scales, the student organisation which filed the case against the DUTA, and the NDTF leadership of the DUTA – all three have political and organisational links which are public knowledge. If the teachers’ case was therefore never presented in court properly, it must be attributed to the deliberate and wilful connivance of the DUTA President and not merely to mishandling. The possibility of an adverse court verdict thus emerged not despite the best efforts of the leadership to prevent it, but on the contrary because of its best efforts to ensure it. When the DUTA counsel, as instructed by the President, stated in court that the HRD Ministry had an open mind but the majority of the DUTA Executive voted against a resolution calling for withdrawal of the examination boycott, the honourable judges could hardly be faulted for their criticism of the teachers. All teachers who were witness to the court proceedings were pained to see that in fact the judges had more to say in favour of teachers than the DUTA counsel !

In any case, the DUTA President has never placed before the teaching community the legal basis on which the court could have given this hypothetical adverse verdict or what precisely the verdict could have been. In a situation, kept deliberately vague, the AAD was presented with the opportunity to permit the passing of the NDTF’s resolution suspending the examination boycott in the name of avoiding a confrontation with the court. While no one wishes a confrontation with the judiciary, there are certain unavoidable implications of the withdrawal of the examination boycott which need to be understood.

  1. All negotiations with the HRD Ministry will now be conducted on behalf of the DUTA without the backing of the collective pressure of struggle by the mass of teachers.
  2. In these negotiations, at least the DU teachers will be represented by a leadership which has decided to act as an agent for the Government and which will therefore wish to negotiate not on the UGC recommendations but on the nine-point letter seeking mere adjustments in the HRD Ministry’s humiliating announcement.

This combination of circumstances is certainly not conducive to a positive outcome of the negotiations.

Should we give up all hope? No! And for the following reasons:

Firstly: due to the intervention of the counsel for a group of independent teachers, and not because of the DUTA counsel, the court has directed that negotiations will centre on the the UGC recommendations – something which has not been liked by the NDTF.

Secondly: the negotiations will involve other teachers’ associations as well, most importantly the FEDCUTA which we hope will remain committed to the positive UGC recommendations and refuse to become party to a betrayal of teachers’ legitimate demands.

Thirdly: the teachers of Delhi University have fought many a historic battle. Will they be cowed down today and remain passive spectators to the attempts to deprive them of their legitimate rights?

Today the future of the teaching profession and of higher education is at stake. If we want to defeat the DUTA leadership’s connivance with the HRD Ministry, we have to keep our hopes alive and maintain our resolve to fight any attempts to deprive us of a just and fair pay revision.

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