Teachers of Delhi University and its affiliated colleges, organized under the banner of Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), struck work from May 9 to June 19. The strike was to oppose retrogressive changes in recruitment policy for teachers and the move to privatize higher education by giving autonomous status to specific colleges. Both these moves have been notified by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Other issues include assessment of past services of teachers in promotion decisions and denial of pension to retired teachers.
As part of their agitation, the striking teachers boycotted the work of evaluation of the examinations. They held dharnas in front of the UGC headquarters, the Vice Chancellor’s office, and in different colleges and departments. They organized protest marches and public meetings at the Parliament.
To counter the lies and disinformation about the teachers’ struggle spread by the corporate media, the agitating teachers held interactions with the students and their guardians, to clarify their position, the injustice that the teachers are currently facing and the justness of their demands. They explained how their demand for regular appointment and continuity of the ad-hoc teachers as well as their opposition to privatization of higher education, in the name of granting ‘autonomous status’, is in fact, directly in the interest of the students and their families. As part of this campaign, DUTA organized a JANSAMPARK Program on 6th June, outside five prominent city metro stations, Delhi University, Rajiv Chowk, Mandi House, ITO and Central Secretariat. Activists of student organisations in the Campus joined DUTA in organizing these programs.
The agitating teachers have pointed out that for the past nearly ten years the Delhi University authorities have completely stopped the process of making permanent appointments of teachers. More than 4000 teachers are currently working on an ad-hoc basis in Delhi University. Thousands of faculty positions are lying vacant in Delhi University and its colleges, causing great difficulties for the students.
They highlighted the extremely exploitative working conditions of the ad-hoc teachers, their displacement from their jobs at periodic intervals, the denial of full salary and other benefits, their complete lack of rights and so on.
The agitating teachers have vigorously opposed the new mechanism notified by the UGC for implementing reservations in appointments of faculty positions as a deliberate move to smash the fighting unity of the teachers. The new mechanism is aimed at setting teachers against each other for every position in every department of every college with the college authorities having the power to decide whether a post should be filled by a teacher from the reserved category or general category. It is aimed at further stalling the process of making permanent faculty appointments.
The teachers of Delhi University have widely opposed the UGC plan of granting autonomy to selected colleges. This is a move towards privatization of higher education and fragmentation of Delhi University. The “autonomous” colleges would be under pressure to generate their own resources by charging higher fees from the students, etc., driving higher education further out of reach for the vast majority of youth. Teachers and employees of the “autonomous” colleges would face further curtailment of their rights and more exploitative working conditions.
The DUTA General Body meeting on June 18 called off the boycott of evaluations following an assurance by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry that the ad-hoc teachers would not be displaced in the forthcoming academic session and the other demands would be looked into. It announced its decision to take forward its “agitation through alternative modes in the interest of thousands of students”. The DUTA resumed its agitation and held a protest action at Parliament on 2nd July.
Over the decades, DUTA has emerged as a fighting body of teachers which has consistently exposed and opposed the moves of the government to privatise higher education. Keeping thousands of posts vacant and employing teachers on ad-hoc basis with no security of service, fragmenting the University in the name of “autonomy”, and other such measures are aimed at smashing the fighting unity of teachers, and their organization.
The struggle of the teachers of Delhi University, in defence of the interests of the teachers and against the privatization of higher education is entirely just.