The Struggle Ahead
The DUTA’s Indefinite Relay Hunger Strike, started on 10 Oct, carried on for 53 days. The Hunger Strike continued successfully through Sundays and all Gazetted Holidays, accompanied by several action programmes and joined by large numbers of students and karamcharis: Candle Light Vigil (12 Oct) on the issue of 4000 vacant teaching posts; Songs by Parcham (14 Oct); Barefoot March (18 Oct) on right to education and against pay-cut; Joint Protest (26 Oct) by DUTA, DUCKU and DUSU; Save DU, Effigy Burning (31 Oct) and Screening of The Great Dictator (9 Nov). The movement has set off debate in the media on our prime demands and exposed the autocratic and undemocratic functioning of the VC. Haing failed to get any of the six bills on higher education passed, Mr. Kapil Sibal was replaced as HRD Minister on 28 Oct by Mr. M.M.Pallam Raju. DUTA Office-bearers led by Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) met the new HRD Minister on 20 Nov who promised to intervene, stating that the process of introducing any reforms had to be inclusive, that there must be dialogue with elected representatives and the DUTA.
New form of governance
A new form of governance is being imposed on us; we are witnessing a corporatisation of the University. All statutory processes are being subverted and the democratic and federal character of the University sabotaged. Decision making is confined to the Vice-Regal Lodge. Despite 50 odd letters from the DUTA, the VC continues to refuse dialogue on the issues affecting teachers, students, karamcharis and teaching-learning processes. Instead, in an interview in the Sunday Guardian of 9 September, the VC calls the DUTA an “illegal welfare association made up by teachers” which has been “unnecessarily making a hullabaloo about unimportant things.”
What are these “unimportant things” the VC is talking about. The DUTA has launched a protracted struggle against 4000 teaching positions lying vacant, non-implementation of UGC Reservation guidelines of 2006, holding up promotions, negative service conditions, denial of pension, and ill-devised “reforms” announced through the media.
Why are posts not being filled?
More than 4000 teachers are working on ad hoc or guest basis. This adhocism has denied them their rights and stability; it has also denied the University a chance to stabilise and grow. Let us recall Prof Pental’s announcement in the press in 2010 that no posts would be filled on permanent basis till workload “stabilises” in semester courses. Advertisements have been allowed to lapse. The EC guidelines of 2007 for adhoc appointments, declaredly designed to curb adhocism, are now being misused to harass ad hoc teachers and force them to appear for interviews every four months. The VC tried to fool teachers by saying various things at various times: that he awaits a committee’s report on a new recruitment policy, that appointments would begin within a month, that they would begin only after “reforms” are in place. Stalling appointments also means stalling implementation of the UGC Reservation guidelines. The VC has also threatened to do away with tutorials, giving as justification the timetables of colleges which have no rooms to allocate for tutorials: this would significantly reduce the number of permanent posts and erode the quality of teaching-learning.
Also read An Ad-hoc University
The sinister implications of the “reforms”
The 4-year graduation, yet another “reform’ being pushed in a hurry and in flagrant violation of due process, aims at vocationalisation of the University. Semesterisation has already adversely impacted our flagship Honours courses; with vocationalisation the destruction will be complete. It will particularly devalue the liberal arts and sciences, forcing these departments to shrink. With multiple exit points and market oriented common papers in the first two years, the 4-year programme will not only change the nature of teaching-learning but also make workload unstable. The exit points after the 2nd and 3rd years, with a strict hierarchy between various degrees, are aimed at frequent expulsion of large sections of students and narrowing the benefits of higher education. The threat of one year PG courses also looms ahead.
At the heart of the recent “reforms” – semesterisation, Meta College, Meta University and the 4-year graduation – is a design to reduce and contractualise teaching jobs. We are already witnessing the fallout of semesterisation – even and odd semesters have different workloads, so that several posts can never be made permanent. In the Meta College and Meta University system, passed with only few dissents in the AC meeting of 21.7.2012, UG students will be forced to shift college after two semesters and PG students will shuttle between universities even within one semester. If students come to a college for a particular course, teachers can be hired on guest basis!
The impact on workload is pretty clear. Imposing a 4-year graduation on colleges still struggling with class-room requirements for the existing 3-year programmes also means reducing workload in each year and shifting classrooms to the general/vocational courses planned for the first year. This will simultaneously affect quality and workload left for the main discipline courses. In the name of greater options, these “reforms” will impose “mobility” and instability on both students and teachers. It goes without saying that it is a threat to the DUTA and impacts each member – permanent or otherwise.
These “reforms” are in line with the policy changes envisaged by the Government. The recommendation of the Twelfth Plan to allow profit making in Higher Education sums up the intention. Public funded universities are to be reduced to the abysmal state of government schools and hospitals or forced to acquire semi-private forms through Public-Private Partnership (PPP). While the UGC was forced months ago to recommend against it in view of sharp criticism by DUTA and other teachers’ associations, the VC’s patron, Mr. Kapil Sibal, had planned to push the issue to the next pay revision and hold back promotions to facilitate his brand of “reforms”. Private investors in higher education do not want the “burden” of a minimum salary, reservations, permanent posts and assured promotions.
Media Gimmicks & Repressive Measures
The VC’s refusal of dialogue has to be interpreted in this light – it is the only way in which he can avoid offering arguments and conceding to genuine demands. “Reforms” can only be bulldozed by disallowing debate and intimidating teachers with Registrar’s notices, through surveillance, victimisation and salary cut (even when leave has been sanctioned and on gazetted holidays!). Statutory processes, based on consultation and debate, have to be replaced by media gimmicks, like the handpicked Task Force and tamashas like the “Academic Congress”, genuine teaching-learning by utterly mindless and unsustainable “innovations” like College on Wheels (COW) and Online Courses aimed at further reducing teaching posts.
Appeal for intervention
to save Delhi University from destruction
EC abdicates: authorises VC to decide on attendance system for teachers!
If education is to be treated as a commodity and teachers as service providers, then the University has to be run as a corporate body with the VC as its CEO. This new form of governance is in line with the National Knowledge Commission (2009). The new role of CEO was blatantly put on view when the EC on 3.11.2012 abdicated its responsibility (with only Rajib Ray’s dissent) by authorising the VC to bring in any system of attendance for teachers he deemed fit.
An attendance system for teachers is alien to the university system the world over since it expresses bad faith in teachers’ integrity. It is not merely superfluous in ensuring teaching-learning but adversely impacts motivation required for teaching. This is why the EC on 23.12.2009 rejected any such system, instead authorising the VC to constitute a committee on the issue of accountability based on the DUTA Report of 2000 on Academic Reforms and Curbing Absenteeism.
The EC on 3.11.2012 failed to take the VC to task for not constituting the committee and for misrepresenting the University’s position in the Court. Instead, it authorised the VC to arbitrarily interpret the court order and decide on his own how to ensure teaching. In the meeting, the Dean of Colleges also argued that Ordinance XVIII needs to be amended, that it is time to do away with Staff Councils and empower Principals to make the committees! The implications are clear.
The struggle ahead
We are witnessing a turning point for DU. Everything gained through the teachers’ movement over decades is under threat. We must assert our collective under-standing and our collective strength to challenge the methods of intimidation employed by the VC. In the last few weeks students and karamcharis joined our protests in large numbers. We must cement and expand this unity of all sections of the university community and also take our campaign to the wider public. The GBM held on 1 Dec has chalked out a detailed plan of action to expand and intensify our struggle and has appealed to students and karamcharis to join us in all our action programmes (TOI, Hindu, Deccan Herald, Indian Express, Daily Bhaskar, HT).