Issue of contractual-teaching at Delhi University
University of Delhi is replete with ad-hoc teachers as it presently employs around five thousand teachers who work in the ad-hoc capacity. Year after year, a hire and fire policy is adopted with regard to their employment by the college administration for every academic session. In this process, an ad-hoc teacher often finds himself/herself being turned into a guest teacher. There have been instances wherein they couldn’t even secure a teaching position in the capacity of a guest faculty in a particular session. The University is reeling under this situation for the past decade. In the meantime there were sporadic attempts at appointment in which some ad-hoc teachers were made permanent. However, the fact that there are still a large number of ad-hoc teachers in the University goes on to show that the effect of such attempts has been largely limited. This also leads to an inference that there exists necessary workload against which such ad-hoc teachers are appointed.
There are 90 colleges which come under the purview of University of Delhi. These colleges frequently advertise vacancies for the appointment of permanent teachers. Candidates can no longer apply without any application fee and each college charges a non-refundable fee of Rs 500 for an application per subject. Qualified candidates from Delhi and the rest of the country apply along with the prescribed fee but most often interviews are not conducted. Moreover the same vacancies are re-advertised and the candidates again submit the application form with the fee and this circle is unending.
Like other universities, Delhi University also has in place definite rules and guidelines for the preparation of question papers for the examinations and also of their evaluation. Further with respect to evaluation there are rules as to which teacher is eligible for examining the answer sheets of pass course (now program) papers and honours course papers at the undergraduate level. Owing to the declining numbers of permanent teachers in the University of Delhi, the ad-hoc teachers have been entrusted with the evaluation of all types of answer sheets. Of course, the teachers coming on contract would also be engaged in the evaluation of answer sheets. However, what is distressing is that no amendments have been made in the rules by the University administration to this effect.
The issue of ad-hoc teachers has become a separate matter in Delhi University’s teacher politics. The ad-hoc teachers have taken independent initiatives to raise their problem before DUTA as well as various active organizations operating in the Association. But, neither the DUTA nor the teacher organizations nor the ad-hoc teachers themselves have been able to eliminate adhocism. Ad-hoc, guest and unemployed teachers are sustaining themselves on empty assurances. Due to the prevalence of rampant adhocism there is a complete lack of coordination between the student, subject and the teacher, and the brunt of this rift is borne the most by the students. And the centre stage of such happenings is a University which was not long back renowned for its best teaching at the classes.
The teacher community of Delhi University had been harbouring the hope that one day adhocism would end and permanent appointments would be made. But the hopes proved to be futile as the Academic Council of University of Delhi passed the rules pertaining to contractual-teaching on 16th January, 2019. This is despite the fact that Ordinance XII of Delhi University stipulates that there is provision of only permanent, temporary and ad-hoc teachers. A rule of taking 10 per cent contract teachers against the permanent places has been made by adding Article E to the Ordinance. All the elected representatives of the Academic Council made strong objections to this decision. Aggrieved by this decision, thousands of teachers led by DUTA marched from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street in protest and even faced arrests. The next day, the teachers sat on a protest dharna at Delhi University’s main entrance. The heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces on both the days and the lathi-charge on agitating teachers is indicative of the government’s unwillingness to take back the decision.
In addition to the 26 representatives elected from the teachers’ community, academic council of Delhi University is also constitutive of more than 150 ex-officio and nominated members including the heads of departments, professors and college principals. The ex-officio and nominated members present in the Academic Council meeting neither protested the decision nor did they deem it fit for even a debate. Also it is noteworthy that prior to making a new rule to impose contractual practice in the teaching system of Delhi University, no discussion was done with regard to the existing rules. The Vice Chancellor came to the Academic Council’s meeting with the only intention of getting the rule passed.
Neither the Vice-Chancellor nor the professor-principals of the university consider the fact that had they been kept in ad-hoc or contract capacity for decades would they have attained the positions occupied by them at present? Would they have been able to secure these plush posts, grants, projects, foreign assignments etc.? The manner in which they have been able to settle their children, would it have been possible in the absence of their present conducive circumstances? The way they have been able to secure their post-retirement life by way of provident fund, pension, medical facility, insurance, etc., would all this have been possible if they had been adhoc or guest faculties most part of their lives? It does not end here. If the teachers teaching them would have been adhoc, contract or guest teachers, would they have been able to gain in-depth understanding of their subjects or received academic accolades?
It seems the responsibility inherent in the profession of teaching has vanished in the vortex of privatization. New Economic Policies which were implemented in 1991 in the name of liberalization have made their impact on all areas of our national life over the past three decades. Meanwhile, an onslaught of privatization on the education system of India continues unabated. Applying contractual practice in the teaching of school, college, university systems is actually a step which aligns with the government’s goal of privatization. Educators who have vowed themselves to fight against adhocism and contractual practice must not lose sight of the reality that this trend shows no signs of relenting and only then would they be able to find enduring solutions against these malpractices.
(Author teaches Hindi at University of Delhi and is also a former member of the University’s Academic Council).