हक़ की लड़ाई अंजाम तक!
Defend Public Universities
Elect Bhupinder Kumar Chaudhary to the EC
Elections to the AC & EC are juxtaposed this time with the realisation that the current Government has snatched away the functional autonomy of universities. This has adversely impacted decision-making, through these statutory bodies, on administrative matters and service conditions as well as those with financial implications. The Government is hostile to such autonomy because it stands in the way of policies designed to throw higher education at the mercy of the market, while proactively promoting private interests.
While the Supreme Court order in 1994 had made the UGC regulations mandatory for maintenance of standards in higher education, it did not stop universities from adapting those regulations to remove obvious ambiguities or in the light of their own specific context. The MHRD letter to the UGC dated 03.03.2016 sought strict compliance on the part of the Central Universities with the rules, regulations and even instructions of the Government and the UGC in administrative matters like CAS, promotion policies, pay fixation, allowances, etc. It also prohibited formulation of Ordinances at variance with such rules/ regulations/ instructions: a step which has reduced universities to mere government departments. The Universities are to take prior approval for the agenda items of their statutory bodies from the MHRD and the UGC. Non-compliance will result in deductions from grants and recovery from university officials. To ensure that no ambiguity regarding the usurpation of all administrative autonomy persists, the UGC directive of 16.10.2018 has made it clear that the Regulations have to be adopted in letter and spirit. Nothing less could be expected from a government that unhesitatingly took away the academic autonomy of the universities while imposing CBCS.
It seems futile to expect VCs appointed by this Government to stand up against assault on university autonomy. They have all undermined or rigged statutory bodies to carry out the Government’s will. Central universities across the country have become battlegrounds between teachers resisting the assault on the right to express opinion, to dissent and to protest and the authoritarian and vindictive VCs. The Government has joined forces with its VCs to suppress dissent through imposition of CCS rules. As if that were not bad enough, the Government was moving to impose ESMA and amend the Delhi University Act after it had to retreat in the face of DUTA’s campaign and protests against making DU colleges autonomous. Timely criticism by the DUTA forced the HRD Minister to issue halt order.
In some universities, criminal outfits and vigilante groups too have been given a free hand to run riot. Teachers of those universities remember DTF’s struggle to keep DUTA alive from the assault by Prof. Dinesh Singh, aided both by the government and teachers’ groups owing allegiance to him. On 02.01.2019, Prof. Yogesh Tyagi’s action reminded us of Prof. Dinesh Singh. Preventing the DUTA from supplying blankets, medicines and food to the elected AC members who started an overnight sit-in to protest against his refusal to allow the AC to consider the committee recommendations on amendments to Statutes and Ordinances for adoption of the UGC Regulations 2018 was inhuman.
Vandalisation of academics and academic autonomy
VCs across Central Universities have willingly succumbed to government policy directions and administrative instructions. They, including our own VC, have pandered to political pressures and have filled practically all committees with teachers owing allegiance to the ruling BJP and the RSS, to actively aid in the exclusion of diverse opinion. Through these actions they complement the Government in robbing the universities of their academic character.
While the AC and EC have been dis-empowered by the Government and rendered non-functional by Prof. Yogesh Tyagi, their ‘privileged’ members are allowed to shamelessly censor syllabi and courses. The NDTF-dominated Standing Committee on Academic Affairs has repeatedly engaged in the ideological policing of syllabi passed by Social Science departments and faculties. The latest demands that the word dalit be removed from readings and that the works of the noted Dalit thinker Kancha Ilaiah be dropped from the Political Science M.A. syllabus are flagrant examples of their attack on the statutory autonomy of departments, committees of courses and faculties to frame syllabi. Ignoring widespread criticism, the VC and the DU Administration have mutely surrendered the academic autonomy of the University and its constituents to this brazen form of ideological control.
What is true of our university and of other central universities is also the vandalisation of academic programmes such as Orientation Courses, Refresher Courses, FDPs wherein Pracharaks and Babas have been let loose. Teachers not only have to suffer them but are also reprimanded for asking critical questions of these new age thinkers.
Only recently an FDP on Feminist Theories and Human Rights had a baba performing yoga on the table with audible laughter from the participants! The infusion of the baba’s yogic insight into feminist theories and human rights is not different from the spectacle in the recently concluded session of the prestigious Indian Science Congress. There, a scientist proclaimed that “gravitational waves would soon be renamed as ‘Narendra Modi effect’ while the gravitational lensing effect in physics would be renamed as ‘Harsh Vardhan effect’”.
The cancellation of the 79th session of the Indian History Congress, a professional and academic body of over 10000 historians, by the VC of Savitribai Phule Pune University under Government pressure, is an insult to the legacy of Savitribai Phule who had openly challenged the caste system and gender discrimination in the mid-19th century.
The false promises and insincerity of the Government on the issue of the reservation roster constitute a severe blow to the process of regularisation. The appointment process has been stalled for long with no end in sight as the Government sacrificed a principled position and did not challenge the Allahabad High Court judgment quashing college / university as unit of 200 point reservation roster. It complicated matters by getting the UGC to direct universities to shift to a subject /department-wise roster. After widespread protests by the DUTA and various other organisations, the Government retreated and appealed for a review of the order in the Supreme Court. However, despite repeated promises by the Minister for HRD, it is yet to frame an Ordinance/Bill on the matter. Several political parties have supported DUTA’s demand for a bill on the roster in the current session of Parliament. The irresponsible manner of the UGC circular dated 5 March 2018 required a massive DUTA effort before the beginning of the last semester to ensure continuation of ad hoc teachers across colleges according to the 200 point college/university-wise roster.
Regularisation/ Absorption / Permanent Appointment
Teachers have been under siege for a long time. All hopes of redressing the longstanding problems of teachers after the exit of the authoritarian and vindictive Prof. Dinesh Singh have been dashed to the ground. Prof. Yogesh Tyagi’s inaction has compounded the miseries. For large numbers of young teachers working under insecure and exploitative conditions, the hopes raised by the intervention of the Delhi High Court were belied by the slow and arduous mechanism of screening of applications. The procedure for permanent recruitment has been changed adversely in the 2018 Regulations to the detriment of many teachers working under these trying conditions. The Government remains unresponsive to the DUTA’s demand for a one-time regulation facilitating regularisation / absorption of temporary/ad hoc teachers as per correct roster. The VC’s refusal to table the committee’s recommendations in the AC meeting of 02.01.2019 has delayed the opportunity to consider the recommendation for grant of maternity leave for women ad-hoc teachers.
The assault on promotion emanating from the perverse and unacademic API/PBAS system has demoralised and negatively affected teachers. With Prof. Dinesh Singh making it retrospective w.e.f. 31.12.2008, many teachers whose colleagues with the same dates of eligibility were promoted under the 1998 scheme, continue without being promoted. With Prof. Tyagi’s bureaucratic approach to administrative matters, teachers in colleges who are eligible for promotions find their applications unprocessed. Teachers in university departments have had to make repeated revisions to their applications only to be told recently that they not only have to personally get all their publications scanned but get them OCR ready. Given the fallibility OCR softwares, proofreading of all publications have to be done if one is not to be charged with misrepresentation. For publications in Indian languages, the availability of usable software is scant. Instead of scheduling of selection/ screening committees, time and effort is spent on further harassing the harassed.
The UGC Regulations 2018 on CAS is both a testimony to our struggle and a reminder that the struggle must continue. It rolls back API, but only partially. It offers two options to pending cases: the option to choose a diluted version of the API becomes ineffective for most since the points required under category III remains the same as in the 2010 Regulations; the choice of CAS 2018 excludes those who did not have a PhD on the date of their eligibility and discounts the number of years of study leave taken even for those who had a PhD. Making PhD a minimum requirement for the first meaningful promotion for college teachers and for entry level in case of university teachers without commensurate higher entry level pay has downgraded the teaching profession and disrupted the parity of teachers with equivalent cadres in All India Services.
The Regulations concede to our demand to count all past service for CAS 2018 but do not extend it to teachers whose promotions are pending in the earlier scheme. Further, it restricts this benefit only to the first promotion. Benefits given to teachers under CAS 2000 such as counting of ad-hoc service and 2 additional increments on completion of 5 years in Selection Grade during the V Pay Revision are now being taken away through audit objections. Recovery has already begun in the latter case in violation of the SC judgment dated 18.12.2014. The VC has neither appealed against recovery to the Government, nor has he agreed to place the report of the Committee set up on the issue of counting of past service for appropriate action.
The elderly in the teaching profession have been denied their pension at the behest of the Government that directed the university to file an SLP against the relief given by the Division Bench of the High Court to teachers and employees. Even those teachers whose CPF account was closed and who were placed under pension scheme over two decades ago are left without means of livelihood on account of both the slowness of the University and callous inaction by the Government even after the University has submitted the financial requirements on this account. While release of pension to even category 3 non-litigants has been inordinately delayed, the SLP filed by DU against Categories 1 and 2 on the instructions of the MHRD has not even come up for hearing in the last so many months! Our demand has been withdrawal of the SLP and an end to this prolonged torture of our retired colleagues, many of whom have died waiting for pension.
Teachers appointed after 1.1.2004 were deprived of assured pension and have been placed under the NPS. The demand for restoring GPF cum Pension Scheme has been part of DUTA’s demand and opinion building. The loss of assured pension is shared with all other employees. Furthering coordination with a strong and vocal countrywide movement that has built up over the past few years needs to be emphasised. The Central Government is under pressure but seeks to ward off the same by increasing its contribution to NPS.
Pay Revision: Withdrawal of Public Funding
The VII pay revision for teachers and employees has witnessed the lowest rise in pay and much reluctance / refusal in granting teachers and employees of the university revised pay and allowances. This pay revision, instead of resolving the outstanding anomalies of the VI pay revision, has created more problems through wrong fixation of minimum pay at the pre-revised AGP 8000, denial of commensurate higher minimum pay for Assistant Professors at AGPs 6000 and 7000 and the impending stagnation of senior teachers in the revised Pay Matrix. The move is part of the policy of reducing Government spending on higher education and pushing higher education to the market. The government formally, but not permanently, had to withdraw its directives to make pay revision conditional on our mobilizing 30% of the additional expenditure on that account and to delink automatic extension of allowances made available to government employees to teachers. It was the massive participation by students with teachers led by DTF-led DUTA with over 15000 marching from Mandi House to Parliament on 28.03.2018 that drew public attention to the dangerous implications of the 70:30 funding formula and forced the Government to backtrack. Pension revision announcement was delayed and that too with an incorrect concordance table. The Government is yet to release grants for payment of revised pension and allowances.
The battle seems unending, as the Government is relentless and comes back with the same policy assault in other forms even after being forced to withdraw as a result of our collective struggles. The case for forcing universities to retrench the number of teachers through imposition of increased and unhealthy workload norms inimical to quality has been tried repeatedly in BJP-led regimes: in 2002 when Prof. Murli Manohar Joshi was the HRD Minister, in 2016 when Ms. Smriti Irani was the Minister and again in the draft regulation of 2018 under the present Minister. The Government’s insistence on self-financing / internal resource generation has taken various forms such as pressurising colleges to become autonomous, Graded Universities scheme, switch from grants to loan-based funding for infrastructural requirements through institution of HEFA and making universities commit to increase internal resource generation through fees and market directed and determined engagements by making them sign the infamous Tripartite agreement under the General Financial Rules 2017. The criticism backed by protest actions that repayment of the Principal amount of infrastructure loans alone would cause student fees to increase astronomically forced the government to relent briefly. But this has been brought in again through Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Higher Education (RISE) whereby older Central Universities like ours are to pay back 10% of the Principal Loan from HEFA while older technical institutions pay back the whole amount. But the principle of loan-based funding has been instituted and private investors into HEFA are assured of returns.
The task before us is, therefore, difficult but inescapable. We have to defend public universities and secure justice for the teaching profession. Our efforts must be directed to restoring the healthy statutory functioning of the university through collective decision-making bodies. Moreover, these statutory bodies should be used to add to the DUTA’s critique of the disastrous education policy through regulations and instructions by the Government. The need is to unite all teachers of the university and across universities to battle the assault on public education. The assault on our service conditions, drastic reduction in scholarships and research grants are linked with the policy to commercialise public universities and encourage private players.
Bringing on board students, other trade unions and citizens concerned about education in our deliberations and protest actions is imperative. Getting political parties on board and making them commit for public universities as the DTF-led DUTA has been doing is crucial to any fight involving government policy. On the issue of roster, 70:30 and the proposed replacement of the UGC by HECI which would be under more direct control of the MHRD, several leaders of various political parties have strengthened our voice.
At the initiative of the FEDCUTA and AIFUCTO, a mass convention was held in October under JFME (Joint Forum for Movement on Education), with the participation of over 25 organisations including all-India school teachers’ organisations, several students’ organisations and organisations across the country fighting for right to quality education and against commercialisation. It decided to launch a countrywide campaign in defence of public education and a massive Citizen’s March in Delhi on 19 February 2019. It drew up a 19 point Charter of Demands that relates to accessible public quality education from school to university levels as well as permanent appointment, absorption/ regularisation of all contract and temporary teachers and regular and assured promotion to retain talent in education.
Serious struggles must involve both determination and reasoned positions to win public opinion. Teachers must guard against short-sighted attempts by groups to pose one set of issues as more important than all others requiring exclusive attention, when livelihood of all sections of teachers are under attack. That would be divisive, weakening the collective strength of teachers’ movement and self-defeating. Some groups use such means to recover from their tarnished image and get a makeover. In the process, they reduce vulnerable colleagues to mere voters.
The DTF appeals to you to elect Bhupinder Kumar Chaudhary, who has been central to the heroic struggles of the DUTA as its Treasurer from 2013-17 along with Nandita Narain as the President, and his team to the EC and the AC respectively to fight in the defense of public universities and for better service conditions.
Polling on 8 February (Friday), 10.30 am to 4.30 pm
Bhupinder Kumar Chaudhary
Elect to the AC
and to the EC