Police baton-charged thousands of university teachers, students and activists who were marching to parliament in India in support of a number demands, including the absorption of ad-hoc and temporary teachers into Delhi University. Over 5,000 people took part in the rally. The protesters were stopped on their way to parliament street by the police who charged at them. The police also detained hundreds of protesters who were taken to various police stations. Several teachers were injured in the process. Professor Nandita Narain, former president of DUTA, told Newsclick, “It was a very successful march. The young professors and ad-hoc teachers took the lead. The police attacked us, but couldn’t break our spirit, and the sloganeering did not stop at any point of time.”
DUTA has staged a number of agitations against the ongoing attacks on higher education by the central government. Ever since the far-right Narendra Modi government took power in 2014, there has been a sustained assault on higher education, both at the policy level and through crackdowns on teachers’ and students’ organizations. Professor Alok Ranjan Pandey, the joint secretary of DUTA, said, “These days will be known as the black days of Delhi University.”
On January 8 and 9, teachers from Delhi University went on strike along with workers from all over the country. On January 2, professors from across Delhi University held an agitation demanding permanent positions, pensions and maternity leave for ad-hoc teachers. Many similar protests have been held earlier too.
A key bone of contention is a letter by the University Grants Commission in March 2018 on recruitment to colleges through the reservation system. India has enacted a system of reservation through which nearly 49.5% of jobs and seats in higher education institutions are reserved for those belonging to the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and the Other Backward Classes. The system is meant to ensure greater representation and the empowerment of the formerly lower castes, which have been discriminated against for centuries.
The UGC regulation stipulated that reservation during the recruitment process be conducted on the basis of subject/discipline within a college/university rather than the the institution as a whole. Teachers point out that this move has reduced the number of seats available under reservation. Hence, they have been demanding the restoration of the system which treats the college/university as the unit for calculating the number of reserved seats. Significantly, even since the notification, many institutions, including Delhi University, have stopped permanent recruitment entirely and are hiring only ad-hoc teachers. Thus, the other key demand is the absorption of these ad-hoc teachers into the university, even if on the basis of the UGC notification.
Several ad-hoc teachers of Delhi University have been on an indefinite hunger strike since January 4, demanding the same benefits as permanent teachers and immediate absorption. The ad-hoc teachers have all the required qualifications prescribed by the UGC, but are still not being absorbed into the university.
The teachers have been fighting a long-drawn battle against the UGC and MHRD for their rights and have resolved to continue their struggle until their demands are met.