Take our united struggle forward!
Elect Rajib Ray to the EC.
The elections to the AC and EC were announced in the midst of our long, arduous, but truly historic agitation against the arbitrary and utterly anti-academic designs of the University authorities at the behest of the MHRD to impose the semester system on undergraduate courses in our University. The announcement of the election schedule came on the very day that we suffered a major setback to our struggle through the court order of 15.11.2010 directing teachers to teach according to the semester system. Understandably, this has had a demoralising and disorienting effect. It is necessary therefore to look back on our more than one-year-long struggle, on the exemplary unity with which we fought it against severe odds and to assert our determination not to be cowed down. We must also see our struggle as part of the growing resistance world-wide against neoliberal policies in higher education.
As we know, the semester system is part of a package of neoliberal “reforms” that the Government is pushing in order to open up higher education to private profiteers, both domestic and foreign, and make education a marketable commodity. There is neither space nor concern within this framework for the teaching-learning process of the Delhi University, which despite all its shortcomings continues to be one of the best in the country. That the semester system will be the undoing of this teaching-learning process is the conviction that drove our united struggle.
The manner of imposing semesterisation was equally alarming. As Chairperson of the AC, the then VC disallowed the AC to discuss the feedback it had sought, overruled substantive procedural points raised by elected members and abruptly closed the AC meeting of 13 May 2010 even as Deans, HODs and other Professors repeatedly questioned the wisdom behind such a hurried move without due debate.
The neoliberal “reforms” envisage expansion of higher education through private investment. To facilitate such investment education is to be commercialised through academic restructuring and multiple bills: the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill, the Educational Tribunals Bill, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Educational Institutions Bill, the Universities for Innovation Bill, the National Commission for Higher Education and Research Bill, and the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill. The HRD Minister is also soliciting investment from the US, UK, Canada and other countries. Whether it is Obama’s visit or the Minister’s sojourn abroad, the one-point agenda is to change laws in order to attract FDI in education.
The “reforms” package also envisages drastic changes in our service conditions, hurdles to deny promotion, schemes to deny pension, regimentation of teachers through an irrational point system and further contractualisation of appointments. These provisions belie the claims of having made the teaching profession more attractive with the VIth pay revision.
Elected representation on the AC and EC has been a significant and indispensable weapon in our current struggle. In the days ahead, our elected teacher representatives will have to continue the struggle in these bodies against the semesterisation of undergraduate courses. They will have to fight further piecemeal moves towards the Government’s neoliberal “reforms”. They will have to resist adverse changes in our service conditions aimed at converting teachers into standardised and unthinking automatons whose task is to collect points rather than invest creativity and thoughtfulness in teaching and research.
The Government is out to curtail elected representation on University bodies which it sees as a hindrance to its “reforms”. The repeated resort to the VC’s emergency powers to suppress and override academic opinion and resistance, the abuse of the position of Chair of the EC, AC and even of Faculties, Departments and Course of Studies all indicate impatience with opinion critical of the “reforms”.
We appeal to teachers to see the forthcoming election as another action in our ongoing struggle and to come out in large numbers to cast their votes. Let this action be a warning to the arrogance of University and College authorities and to the Government of India that we are ready to fight back. Let us use this opportunity to express our determination to take our struggle forward!
Cobalt-60 Affair: Government protects criminal action
That the criminal sale of a Gamma Cell containing radioactive Cobalt-60 to a scrap dealer has gone unpunished is a shame for the university community and the country as a whole. One person died and the health of several others was severely affected. Prof. Pental has been allowed to go scot free by getting the enquiry done though a committee with nominated members close to him and the then HOD of Chemistry. The Committee consisting of “eminent” scientists accepted that the scientists involved in the disposal of the Gamma cell did not know that gamma had anything to do with radioactivity! Feigning ignorance, the Committee hid a page of a stock register with details of the Gamma Cell on the basis of which it was disposed off. The Registrar has not acceded to a request by Rajib Ray (EC Member) made more than a month ago for a copy of this page. The Committee did not inquire into Prof. Pental’s public statement that there was a miscalculation of the half-life of the radioactive material. The person(s) who miscalculated remain unnamed. The fact is that the disposal was done in unseemly hurry with the approval of the then VC and PVC. While the Committee admitted that the Department of Chemistry was not consulted, it still held the Department and not any individual(s) responsible.
The Challenges Ahead
Service Conditions & Promotional Avenues: The insistence on research and the irrational quantification of teachers’ contributions through the point system are meant to deny promotion. This must be fought. Ad hoc experience must be counted for promotion. The initial pay for each AGP must be upgraded. The quota based promotion to Professor in colleges and from AGP of 10,000 to AGP of 12,000 is disastrous for a healthy academic milieu.
The inordinate delay in fixation of pay in the new pay structure consequent upon appointment of teachers with long experience and promotion has to end. The delay in promotion, its denial and not granting it from the date of eligibility must end.
Pension must be ensured: The post-retirement benefits of teachers left under the CPF scheme are seriously eroded. The Government must be pressed to allow them to switch to GPF. Similarly, all teachers joining service since 1.1.2004 face a New Pension Scheme demanding their contribution to a pension fund without assuring any pension. We must join all other unions in demanding an assured pension scheme.
Leave Encashment & PF: Clarification no. 3 to para 8.4.3 of the UGC regulations states that “Encashment of earned leave shall be allowed to non-vacation members of the teaching staff as applicable to the employees of Central/State Governments.” This will deny leave encashment to teachers and must be undone. The unjust 8% cap on interest on PF adhered to by the University and some colleges must be removed.
Ensure Parity: Librarians must be granted parity with teachers in designation and retirement age. Parity with teachers must also be extended to instructors, the academic staff of the Hindi Implementation Board and system programmers.
Ad Hoc Teachers: The system of ad hoc appointments has to be changed on a priority basis. While the demand for appointment till the end of the academic session was agreed in principle, not only was the old system of four months re-introduced, the provision of interview after every four months renders young teachers vulnerable and insecure and harms students through frequent changes in teachers.
Fill up vacancies: Filling up new teaching positions created on account of 54% expansion in intake must be done forthwith. Given the new UGC norms which stipulate a much higher student-teacher ratio, these posts may be taken away adversely affecting teaching-learning.
- Stop arbitrariness over NET: The seesaw played by the UGC and the MHRD over exemption of MPhil from NET must stop. Those who had been exempted must remain exempted from NET.
Reservation Roster: Manipulations of the reservation roster in the University and colleges must stop. The AC and the EC must be allowed to take appropriate decisions on the UGC guidelines for implementation of SC/ST reservation. OBC and differently-abled reservation must be done with clear guidelines.
Child Care Leave: Child care leave must be extended to teachers. Full time appointment must be made against resultant vacancies.
Designs of Delhi Government: After taking away DCE from Delhi University and converting it into a business venture, the Delhi Government is planning to take away colleges fully funded by it to a state university and has threatened not to pay the 10% employer’s contribution to PF.
Academic Reforms & Accountability: Provisions for making authorities accountable are still pending. The centralisation of academic decision-making through repeated abuse of the emergency powers must stop. Examination reforms including a review of the internal assessment scheme too are pending. Centralised evaluation and the proposed assembly line evaluation (one question per teacher) by a board of examiners must be rejected.
Attendance Register: Back-door moves to make college teachers mark attendance in a register must be withdrawn. This was rejected as inappropriate by the Executive Council when Prof. Pental tried to introduce it last year.
Departmental Councils must be made statutory and the practice of HODs to bypass them in violation of long-standing practices must be resisted. Often, the HODs fail to represent the viewpoint of their departments in the AC.
Research Supervision: The discriminatory norms of the Science Faculty which deny competent teachers in colleges the right to supervise research must be changed.
School of Open Learning: While the number of students enrolled in the School has tripled, the number of teachers has dwindled from 135 to 35. Moreover, by raising fees the School is being used to fleece students to make a profit. This commercialisation must stop and quality must be improved by recruiting more teachers.
Action against erring Principals: For more than three years Prof. Pental protected the Principal of Aurobindo College (E) from inquiry after prima facie charges were established by the Governing Body. Now, the Staff Associations of Dyal Singh College and Ram Lal Anand Colleges have made substantial allegations against the functioning of the respective Principals. Impartial inquiries must be instituted without any delay.
Professional Colleges: Teachers of the RAK College of Nursing and Nehru Homeopathy College have been denied parity in pay and designation. The rotational principle for headship is not respected in medical & other professional colleges. The academic environment is marred by autocratic and arbitrary functioning.
Health Care Facilities: The restricted operation of the direct payment system and the scheme of reimbursing only at CGHS rates even when hospitals charges are much higher are causing substantial hardship. A scheme of full reimbursement must be put in place.
Housing Facilities: There is a substantial shortage of housing with the increase in numbers of teachers. More housing is needed particularly in view of the large number of single women and differently-abled teachers.
Facilities for differently-abled: Appropriate infrastructure and study materials must be provided. Assistance must be provided to teachers with visual disability for evaluating answer scripts and written assignments.
How do we take our struggles forward?
The current situation demands added responsibility from all teachers as well as the elected representatives. Apart from the traditional methods of protest, the following avenues must be pursued: increased vigilance to bring on record violations of rules and arbitrary decisions, making principled demands on the media that grave issues affecting education must find appropriate coverage, reviving the tradition of mobilising opinion among AC/EC members and urging them to take independent positions, and also exploring legal avenues if the administration remains impervious to reasoned protests. Immediately, two sets of issues demand attention. The struggle against negative changes in service conditions and promotional avenues has to be taken up. The Government must be pressurised to withdraw the adverse provisions. Second, the struggle against the semesterisation of undergraduate courses must continue.
The Court order relates to the current batch of students admitted to 13 undergraduate science courses this year. It should not deter us from demanding due discussion and insisting that changes are only acceptable if they promote excellence and equal access. We hope to be able to impress upon the Court that bypassing statutory bodies cannot be the way to run a university. The revised academic calendar announced by the University is also a decision taken without consulting the AC/EC; it is not helpful for the students in the 13 semesterised courses, nor is any other academic logic evident in it. The announcement of the AC/EC election schedule without consultation is another example. Twice rescheduled after having to accept errors, including the illegal move to delete the names of 1200 ad hoc teachers from the electoral roll, it still deprives many teachers in the university departments from participating.
We appeal to teachers to use the forthcoming AC/EC elections to assert our strength by voting in large numbers. Let the University and College authorities know that we are ready for the challenges ahead!
Dept. of Philosophy, Kirori Mal College
to the EC
Dept. of Hindi, ARSD College
Vinod Kumar Verma
Dept. of English, Maharaja Agrasen College
Dept. of Hindi, Ram Lal Anand College
Dept. of History, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College (Eve)
Dept. of MILLS, University of Delhi