We need a united, all-India struggle to defeat the anti-teacher designs of the Central Government
Friends, the struggle for securing the implementation of the UGC recommendations has now entered a crucial phase.
In its first phase, beginning June 1997, the DUTA thanks to its strongly argued case and concerted action programmes – culminating in the July 1997 All India Teachers’ Convention which gave a call for a countrywide agitation programme – was able to expose the perfidious nature of the recommendations of the Rastogi Committee. That hard work along many fronts compelled the UGC to see the point of our analyses and criticisms, and subsequently to revise the Rastogi Report in far-reaching ways.
Unfortunately, the new DUTA leadership showed no inclination even to force the public release of the UGC recommendations, even when the Vth Pay Commission report was made public the day after it was finalised. And after the installation of the BJP in the Central Government, this DUTA leadership took to actively sabotaging the struggle for the implementation of the UGC recommendations. Indeed, the DUTA President and senior leaders of the NDTF took the position that there was no point in pursuing the UGC recommendations since the HRD Ministry would not accept the UGC Report! A conspiracy was afoot to scuttle teachers’ demands – endorsed by the DUTA General Body – in several ways. The student wing of the BJP was clandestinely encouraged to file a case in court against the teachers’ examination boycott action. The DUTA President all on his own, without authorisation either from the DUTA Executive or the General Body, wrote a nine-point letter to the HRD Minister changing unilaterally the teachers’ demands. In the High Court, the DUTA advocate was instructed to weaken the teachers’ case to a point where it became difficult to distinguish the positions of the HRD Ministry and the DUTA. Appeals by over 900 teachers as well as formal resolutions of the DUTA Executive to call a General Body meeting were blatantly ignored by the DUTA President. And the examination boycott was called off without consulting the General Body.
Despite this unprecedented sabotage by the leadership, however, an independent teachers’ intervention in the High Court saved the situation. The High Court order stipulated that discussions between the HRD Ministry and teachers’ organisations “shall centre around the recommendations made by the UGC.”
Since then, that initiative has made further strides. A writ petition was filed by 32 teachers from different colleges and departments for the implementation of the UGC recommendations. The Court asked the HRD Ministry and the UGC to file their replies within six weeks and fixed the next hearing on 5 August. The petitioners have since garnered support not only from many other teachers in Delhi University but also from other universities in other parts of the country. Carrying forward the initiative, groups of teachers met a large number of MPs, including those who are members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, explaining and arguing the teachers’ case and cause.
As a result, the Standing Committee has now argued the UGC case. Noting that the UGC had argued strongly for the need to stop the flight of talent from the teaching profession, and that the convention has been that the UGC recommendations on teachers’ pay scales have always been implemented, the Committee has recommended that the matter be settled in the light of this background.
The massive signature campaigns conducted during the last some months culminated in a meeting of another teachers’ delegation with the Visitor, the President of India. At this meeting, the President expressed surprise that the HRD Ministry should be bypassing both the order of the High Court and the statutory authority of the UGC. The Visitor gave his commitment to examining all the papers related to pay revision and to taking up the matter.
The most urgent need of the hour is to evolve the broadest possible unity of teachers across the country to generate massive pressure on the Central Government. While the DUTA leadership continues to think of ever new ways to sabotage teachers’ demands (the NDTF has suddenly floated a new “all-India” teachers’ organisation called the Akhil Bhartiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh), the AIFUCTO has now raised the demand for the implementation of the UGC recommendations and has called for a nation-wide agitation including a March to Parliament on 21 July and indefinite strike from 11 August. The AIFUCTO has further appealed to the FEDCUTA and all teachers’ associations outside its fold to co-ordinate actions so that there is a united struggle for our common demand.
The DTF feels strongly that co-ordination should take place as long as we are fighting for the same demands and that success will come our way only if such a co-ordinated struggle is made a reality; particularly since we are confronted with a Government which has declared that the state cannot continue to finance higher education, which even wants to hike students’ fees to bear the costs of teachers’ salaries and which has made amply clear that it is determined to scuttle the UGC recommendations. We hear that the FEDCUTA discussed the appeal by the AIFUCTO for co-ordinated action, but decided to hold its March to Parliament on 22 July, reportedly under pressure from the DUTA office-bearers. NDTF spokesman I.M. Kapahy even took the position in the DUTA Executive that the DUTA should neither co-ordinate with the AIFUCTO nor with the FEDCUTA. While we call upon all teachers to join the FEDCUTA action, we urge the FEDCUTA and the DUTA leadership to recognise the need for a co-ordinated, united struggle of teachers across the country if we are serious about achieving our demands.
The DTF calls upon the mass of teachers to come to the General Body meeting on 20 July in large numbers and to participate massively in all the action programmes. We must be prepared for a determined and long-drawn struggle, if need be, on behalf of our just demands. Let us not be demoralised by the ongoing attempts at sabotage. We shall be victorious if the common teacher remains committed to a united struggle to force this Government to implement the UGC recommendations.
BJP’s “National Agenda” for Higher Education
The HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi has gone on record in various press statements to set out the BJP’s sinister designs in the sphere of higher education. Mr. Joshi is the first Minister in charge of Education to declare that the state cannot go on financing higher education. Again, no previous Minister has ever even suggested that students’ fees should be used to bear the costs of teachers’ salaries. And neither has any previous Minister dreamt of questioning the jurisdiction of the UGC with regard to teachers’ pay scales.
The BJP not only wants to change the structure of the system of higher education; it is also hell-bent on changing its content to suit its sectarian, chauvinist worldview. In line with earlier moves to change the history textbooks and to introduce “Vedic Mathematics” in the schools in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the BJP – now wielding power at the Centre – has filled the Indian Council for Historical Research with historians notorious for their association with the VHP campaign on Ayodhya and without any credibility in the field of history writing. This assault on the ICHR is clearly aimed at influencing the direction and funding of historical research towards the BJP’s communal agenda. Addressing a SAARC conference recently, Murli Manohar Joshi said that the study of the history and philosophy of foreign lands had prevented universities from becoming centres of learning. He called instead for the imbibing of oriental learning and religion!
DTF condemns anti-democratic fee-hike
The DTF expresses its strongest condemnation of the completely unauthorised and excessive fee-hike announced by several colleges which would deny access to higher education to aspiring students from economically deprived backgrounds. At a dharna organised by several left student organisations under the banner of the “Movement against Fee-Hike” outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office, elected EC member Nandita Narain along with DTF member Shaswati Mazumdar joined forces with the students. They confronted the Vice-Chancellor, criticising him for standing by passively while Colleges illegally went ahead with fee increases towards the Consolidated Fund and even openly linking such increases with the pay revision of employees and teachers! It was only after this dharna that the Vice-Chancellor intervened with the concerned College Principals.
The initiative taken by the “Movement against Fee-Hike”, subsequently picked up by other student organisations, first forced the Vice-Chancellor to call the concerned College Principals to account and then compelled the College Principals to roll back much of the announced hike. Some Principals continue to be recalcitrant and will have to face the persistent agitation by the students.
Non-payment of Salary: A move to break teachers’ associations and defeat their agitation
The UGC circular seeking individual testimony from teachers over compensation for teaching days lost during the September DUTA strike and the subsequent cut in UGC grants to enforce non-payment of salary to those who do not comply is not merely unprecedented and humiliating. The timing of such a move when the Government and its agents in the DUTA leadership are bent on demoralising and demobilising teachers into accepting the arbitrary scales and negative conditions announced by the Central Government makes it amply clear that this move is part of the attempt to scuttle the justified demand of the teaching community.
DTF condemns violence at AC meeting
The provocative move by the VC seeking to de-recognise three teachers including the DUTA President is an attempt both to humiliate the collective body of teachers and to derail the struggle for pay revision. The violent incidents of 11 July when the AC was meeting after a gap of six months would also be used to legitimise bypassing of the statutory decision-making bodies of the university and to continue running the university through arbitrary use of emergency powers with the VC. The teaching community must ensure that such a design does not succeed.
The unwarranted presence of armed police at the venue of the AC meeting on 11 July and the preparation by the ABVP, an organisation opposed to teachers’ struggle for pay-revision, to stall the meeting suggest that the incidents were pre-planned. The VC should not be allowed to cancel the EC meeting and to use emergency powers to take decisions on important matters including the reconstitution of the GBs of the Delhi Govt. maintained colleges. Mr Mehta should not be allowed to arbitrarily run the University.
Mr V R Mehta has demonstrated once again that he is unfit to continue as the VC of the University. That he has the courage to act in such a manner is largely due to the “mutual trust” established by the DUTA leadership that has consistently refused to pursue the resolution of the DUTA GBM to represent to the Visitor for his removal. Instead, the leadership chose to establish cordial social interaction with the VC. Now, it is time that the case against Mr Mehta be pursued in earnest and no deals be struck behind our back. However, while pursuing our demand for Mr. Mehta’s removal, we should not to allow any diversion from our primary struggle against the Central Government on pay revision.
Oppose nuclear weaponisation
The nuclear weapons tests conducted by India and subsequently by Pakistan have created an extremely dangerous situation in the sub-continent. The rabidly jingoistic war-mongering by the BJP and the Central Government has pushed both countries towards a costly arms race involving development and deployment of nuclear weapons and missiles and provoked an intensification of hostility. These developments have diverted attention away from the grave problems of poverty, hunger, ill-health, illiteracy and lack of basic infrastructure, and threaten mutual annihilation through nuclear exchange.
The DTF calls upon the university community to speak out against the new militarism and the irrational jingoism incited by the Sangh Parivar for its own political interests.
Re-constitute Governing Bodies immediately
The DTF demands immediate re-constitution of the governing bodies of Delhi Govt. maintained colleges. The VC has been granting repeated extensions of term to these GBs under the pressure of the Delhi Govt. We warn the VC not to succumb to the same pressures to fill the GBs with political loyalists of the Delhi Govt. The hijacking of these GBs through such nominations has brought disrepute to the University and is ruining the future of these institutions through rampant manipulations, gross nepotism in appointments, unhealthy interference in day-to-day working and victimisation of those who refuse to succumb. The DTF, therefore, demands that:
- the University must shoulder the responsibility vested in it as the final authority to approve the proposed names for the GBs;
- the University must implement in letter and spirit the standing EC resolution that only persons with long association with higher education may be considered;
- the University representatives on these bodies must ensure the implementation of the rules and regulations of the University, protect the sanctity of Staff Councils and be accountable to the EC;
- no one should be nominated to the GBs for more than two terms, a rule that already applies in case of university nominees;
- the University should strictly follow the norm that no one holding positions of profit in the government is nominated to the GBs. It is shocking that such people are being nominated to the GBs. The DUTA has already asked for refusing re-nomination in the specific case of Nand Kisore Garg.