- NL Sena
Over 2,000 protesters gheraoed the vice chancellor’s office and barged in. Teachers are refusing to leave until their demands are met.
On Wednesday, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association gheraoed the office of the university vice-chancellor to demand the withdrawal of a circular issued by his office to “all principals/directors, colleges/institutions” of the university. The circular issued on August 28 stated that only guest teachers could be appointed for the full-time vacancies in the new academic session.
DUTA called for an “indefinite, university-wide strike” when the Delhi University Principals’ Association, on the basis of the circular, temporarily suspended the jobs of ad-hoc teachers and the disbursal of their salaries. DUTA also asked teachers to suspend all official duty to extend solidarity to the protest.
In a press release on the same day, DUTA criticised DUPA’s decision, calling it an “attack on the stability of the University and the quality of education imparted by it” since this policy will entail that over 4,500 teachers serving in ad-hoc positions across the university will be “shown the door”.
The semester was punctuated with multiple protests against the circular. DUTA subsequently gave the vice-chancellor, Yogesh K Tyagi, three days notice to their demands, which were:
On Wednesday, a crowd began gathering at Arts Faculty at 11 am and shouted slogans against Tyagi and the administrative policies. Slogans included “Inquilab Zindabad (Long live revolution)” and “Shiksha ki hai mockery, kahan hamari naukari (It’s a mockery of education, where are our jobs?)”.
The crowd comprised over 2,000 protesters — teachers, some students, and representatives from the Students’ Federation of India, All India Students’ Association and Krantikari Yuva Sangh. The group led the way towards Tyagi’s office at Delhi University’s North Campus. When the Delhi police refused to open the gates, a few protesters scaled the gates and forced them open. The crowd marched towards Tyagi’s office, amid cries of “DUTA march on!”. Inside the office building, protesters scrawled messages on the walls: “Thank you VC for not thinking about 4,500 families”, “Jaago VC. Tanashahi band karo (wake up VC, stop this tyranny)”, “This building deserves better #ThrowthisVCout”.
The teachers then went into the conference hall and banged tables and the water canisters in a display of resistance while the police looked on. Later, Central Reserve Police Force personnel were deployed on the site.
Through the night, the protesters sat in Tyagi’s office as a form of protest.
Tyagi himself made no appearance though he had agreed to meet with the teachers at midnight. However, he sent a notice through the university proctor, Neeta Sehgal, rejecting DUTA’s demands. The notice also set a precondition that the premises of the Viceregal Lodge be vacated.
As of 3 pm today, DUTA continues its indefinite strike, occupying the vice-chancellor’s office until its demands are met. A water cannon has been deployed near the Viceregal Lodge and the police have barred entry into the premises of the Lodge. A crowd outside is shouting slogans, demanding entry.
Tyagi was scheduled to meet with the Ministry of Human Resource Development at 12 pm, while DUTA has a meeting with the ministry at 4 pm. In the meantime, DUTA President, Rajib Ray, made a request to the gathering to be “civil and patient”.
Dr Geetika Bhalla, a teacher at Hindu College, told Newslaundry, “While not decrying some good things this government has done, I am of the firm opinion that the negative things that it has brought about in our country, makes it imperative that it goes as soon as possible. It is not bothered about the country and the common people at all.”
Bhalla said it’s important for teachers to present a united front. “I had never been for inconveniencing students by strikes, but I think that this is a very serious issue and teachers need to present a single united front in facing this challenge to higher education in the country.”
Dr Shriddha Shah, an ad-hoc teacher at Hindu College, said, “Actually, this isn’t just DUPA’s decision. They’re acting on a letter issued by DU on August 28 to employ guest faculty, as opposed to ad-hoc faculty, against substantive teaching positions. This letter is further based on an earlier UGC directive.”
Shah adds, “The implications of this for the existing ad-hoc faculty is that their appointments have been kept in abeyance so far, essentially leaving them unemployed at the moment. If this letter is followed through, then next semester there will only be guest appointments. Guest faculty are limited in their role in teaching, with no involvement in evaluation or administration. There is a cap of 8 lectures a week on guest faculty, which is half of an assistant professor’s workload.”
In a press release by DUTA, they have also demanded promotions for 3,500 teachers with past ad-hoc and postdoctoral experience and immediate relief for the pension cases.
Delhi University hasn’t had full-fledged permanent recruitments in almost 10 years. There has also been no substantive attempt by the university to regularise these positions. A handful of advertisements for these positions have cropped up over the years, but only 2-3 institutions have fulfilled the recruitments.
Shah says, “The implications for this on the academic culture in the university and personally for the guest faculty members are dire. In terms of sheer numbers, ad-hoc faculty constitutes 45-50% of the university faculty. Consider this number having such a limited role in the teaching process. As for the guest faculty members themselves, their career prospects are seriously compromised in terms of earnings as well as their status in the university.”