Issue of Contractual Teaching at Delhi University

The University of Delhi is replete with ad-hoc teachers. It presently employs around five thousand teachers who work in ad-hoc capacity. Year after year,  for every academic session, a hire and fire policy is adopted with regard to their employment by the college administration. 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. This situation has continued in the University for the past decade. During this period, some sporadic attempts were made to make the ad-hoc teachers permanent. But the fact that there are still a very large number of ad-hoc teachers in the University goes to show that the effect of such attempts has been very limited. This also leads to an inference that there exists the necessary workload against which such ad-hoc teachers are being 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 only apply after paying an 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 very often the interviews are simply not conducted. Some time later, the same vacancies are re-advertised, the candidates again submit the application form with the fee, again the interviews don’t take place, and the cycle continues unendingly.

 

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. 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 and even guest teachers have been entrusted with the evaluation of all types 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 an important matter in Delhi University’s teacher politics. The ad-hoc teachers have taken several initiatives to raise their problems before the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), as well as various active organisations operating in the Association. But, neither the DUTA nor the teacher organisations nor the ad-hoc teachers themselves have been able to eliminate ad-hocism. 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. All this is taking place in a University which not very long ago was renowned for the quality of its teaching.

 

The teacher community of Delhi University had been harbouring the hope that one day ad-hocism 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 16  January 2019. This is despite the fact that Ordinance XII of Delhi University provides for only permanent, temporary and ad-hoc teachers. A rule of recruiting 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 took 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, the Academic Council of Delhi University also has 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 to even debate the issue. Neither did any discussion take place as to what was the shortcoming in the existing rules because of which a new rule to impose contractual practice in the teaching system of Delhi University was needed. The Vice Chancellor came to the Academic Council meeting with the only intention of getting the rule passed.

 

Neither the Vice Chancellor nor the professors–principals of the University have given a thought to the question 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 their present plush posts, grants, projects, foreign assignments etc.? The manner in which they have been able to settle their children—would it have been possible for them 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 for most part of their lives? Even more importantly, if the teachers teaching them had been ad-hoc, contract or guest teachers, would they have been able to gain an in-depth understanding of their subjects which has enabled them to receive academic accolades? It seems the responsibility inherent in the profession of teaching has vanished in the vortex of privatisation.

 

The New Economic Policies that have been implemented since 1991 in the name of privatisation and liberalisation have impacted all areas of our national life over the past three decades. One consequence has been the continuing privatisation of our education system. The employment of contractual teachers in school, college and university systems is a part of this privatisation drive. The present movements of the teaching community have not been able to stop and reverse the employment of ad-hoc and contract teachers. They will need to find ways of building more powerful movements, involving both teachers and students as well as the common people, to find enduring solutions against these malpractices.

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