Teachers of Delhi University (DU) observed a one-day strike on May 27, to protest against the suspension of 12 ad hoc teachers from a college of the University in the midst of the raging pandemic. The protesting teachers held placards bearing slogans, opposing the suspension of their colleagues and demanding revocation of the suspension orders.
According to the teachers participating in the protest, these ad-hoc teachers were issued suspension orders on April 30, at a time when 5 out of the 12 teachers were battling COVID-19. The justification given by the University authorities for this cruel order was “reduction in work load” due to the pandemic, at a time when classes are being held online and students are not present on campus. The suspended teachers served in diverse departments such as Economics, Commerce, Computer Science, English, Food Technology, Mathematics and Environmental Science. Among those suspended is an eight-month pregnant teacher who was battling the coronavirus at the time of suspension!
DU employs as many as 4,500 ad hoc teachers who are periodically reinstated at regular intervals of four months. These teachers are forced to work under extremely exploitative conditions. They face an extremely uncertain future. In several cases, teachers who were pregnant had been compelled to continue to work without any maternity leave. The ad-hoc teachers perform not only their teaching duties, but all kinds of other duties assigned to them by the college authorities. They are not eligible for paid maternity leave, sick leave or study leave.
One of the affected teachers pointed out that some of them had been teaching on ad-hoc basis for nearly 7 years and had put-off marriage plans and plans of having children, in the hope of getting a permanent appointment. The suspension order has shocked them and is causing them intense mental trauma. They are full of apprehension that they will not get any employment in the midst of the pandemic.
Denouncing the suspension of these teachers as “inhuman”, at a time when “the country is witnessing harrowing stories of pain and suffering” and when “people need their jobs most for survival!”, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) has said that this is a blatant violation of the letter issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development on December 5, which had clearly stated that no ad hoc teacher would be discontinued from their posts during the pandemic.
In a press statement, DUTA drew attention to the fact that these 12 teachers have been teaching on ad-hoc basis for the past several years. It pointed out that these teaching posts have been lying vacant for all these years and no steps have been taken by the authorities to employ permanent teachers in these posts. The University rules allow for extension of service of an ad-hoc teacher beyond 4 months if the post is not filled. These teachers had been given extension of service earlier. Now they are being made to suffer loss of jobs and grave uncertainty, for no fault of theirs, in these difficult times.
DUTA has condemned the decision of the DU authorities to suspend these teachers, particularly at this time, in the midst of the health crisis and financial difficulties. DUTA has demanded that the suspension orders of these ad-hoc teachers be immediately revoked.