What are the universities meant for? We consider these are the backbone of higher education and research besides also contributing to the nation by upholding academic voice. Universities also have a role interposing critically over important socio-political, economic and scientific phenomena from national and international perspectives. But how is it possible for universities to deliver their part if these are run by adhoc teachers, without recruiting and filling up vacancies with a free, fair, regular and ethical recruitment and selection process?
The case in point here is the premier university of India, the Delhi University, an institution with more than a hundred years old history. The university today is marred by adhocism where qualified teachers are endlessly engaged in the process in absence of a regular recruitment process even as the vacancies pile on.
Recruitment and selection process in DU has been in the question for long. In addition, it is also important to talk what role Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) has been playing in providing support and leadership in DU’s professional matters? We bring into analysis a few very recent trends in the DU recruitment process and illustrate them with actual examples.
In October 2023, as one of the authors was sitting in the staff-room of a Delhi University (DU) college, one of his senior ad-hoc colleagues arrived in a very upset condition and exclaimed, “Interviews for filling the vacancies in my subject start from the day after tomorrow. I am going to lose my job as I am from the Left group. My position will go to those people who pertain to the Right wing. But if I go jobless at this age, how will I run my family? What will I do after returning to Bihar with no employment in hand? If I lose my job, I won’t be able to survive for more than two-four years.” Hearing his words, every Assistant Professor’s morale hit the nadir. After all, many of them were in the same boat. Aspiring a permanent appointment amidst the precariousness of selection processes at the Delhi University has many of them at tenterhooks of their career graphs. “Stay calm and trust God”, was all that they could advice their flustered colleague. Quite surprisingly the result of their colleague’s interview put their worries at rest. This senior fellow stood selected as a permanent lecturer signifying much relief and hope for the rest of the candidates in the fray!
In the same month, interviews for a permanent post in Hindi department were held in another college of Delhi University. Amidst the sad news of many senior Ad-hoc lecturers losing their jobs, the selection of an elderly senior Assistant Professor, who has worked for the last fifteen years as an ad-hoc faculty member pleasantly, astonished many an onlooker. Fighting with cancer since 2022, yet demonstrating a great verve and dedication for research and teaching, this Professor’s permanent appointment instil a humanitarian faith in the system.
The face of another Ad-hoc who had just become a professor at a college in North Campus was brimming with joy. He told us that despite so many research publications, academic and research experience, people like him did not qualify to become professors earlier. But now, one can become a professor in college at a younger age. His newfound job-security will not allow him, says he, ‘to do his research and teach more dedicatedly’.
One Dr. Tripathi, who has been working as a teacher in the Sanskrit department of Motilal College for years was extremely happy to share with us that thanks to putting principle of ‘Ward Quota’ in use, his daughter secured admission to a prestigious north campus college of the DU. Elated, he remarked that , “this is possible only with the current regime of DUTA. Earlier, when did the teachers get the benefit of ward quota?”. “It’s a great honour for teachers”, added Dr. Tripathi.
Information in the above four vignettes encapsulates some current trends in recruitment process at the DU and reflects the basic tenants of the, ‘Idea of DUTA’, that became famous during DUTA election of 2023. Let us explore what is meant by DUTA and the recent election verdict before we elaborate upon the much coveted, “Idea of DUTA” below.
What is DUTA?
Thousands of permanent professors and assistant (ad-hoc) professors employed by the University of Delhi are members of DUTA. Although the association was founded on 11 December 1957, the process of election for the post of president began ten years later in 1967. The first president of DUTA was the then Vice-Chancellor (VC) R.C. Majumdar. Except during the Emergency (1975), DUTA has been elected every two years with a focus on various issues such as teachers’ salaries, housing, recruitment, promotions and education policy etc. In the most recent DUTA elections held in September 2023, the neck-to-neck contest between NDTF and D.U.T.A (Democratic United Teachers Alliance consisting of ten group) was won by the former.
Idea of DUTA
The concept of ‘Idea of DUTA’ has been coined by DUTA President Prof. AK Bhagi during the 2023 DUTA elections in which he seamlessly communicated with college teachers, motivating them to vote heavily in the DUTA election, the great festival of democracy in DU. Although not without its challenges, DUTA is widely recognised as an active, committed and inclusive institution. The ‘Idea of DUTA’ has the following tenets:
Shikshak samvad (Teachers’ Dialogue): The first attempt to give practical shape to the concept of Idea of DUTA was Shikshak samvad. Under this dialogue, the DU teachers are encouraged in three respects. First, as DUTA president, Bhagi appealed succesfully to the fraternity to vote in large numbers as a result of which there was an 85% voter turnout; Secondly, he appealed to the voters to cast their vote for and make the NDTF candidates win and thirdly; using his charismatic personality, he portrayed his diversity and established his acceptability in comparison to other groups in the past. However the ‘Idea of DUTA’, an umbrella concept, does not work with people of different ideologies, regions, castes with a sense of revenge but accommodates them, (See Vignettes 1 and 2) with the spirit of inclusiveness.
Pro-active Members: The ‘Idea of DUTA’ envisages an active and vibrant DUTA, which would be incomplete without participation by teachers as well as accommodation of their common interests. Bhagi placed before the voters the fact that more than ten thousand promotions, six hundred professorships and appointment of more than 3500 permanent teachers have been made by the NDTF.
Rallying for Common Welfare: Upon election, Bhagi highlighted another important commitment that he would follow over the next two years, namely, work for, ‘ensuring the implementation of old pension scheme (OPS)’. This would further validate the idea of DUTA. Security of service and related benefits also form the core of the ‘Idea of DUTA’, which is also associated with the promotion of thousands of teachers at the college level. Unlike in the past, under the NDTF promotions to professorship can happen at the college level. This honour given to teachers at the college level is nothing short of a dream and increases the respect of DUTA manifold.
Streamlining Recruitment as well as Gender Justice: The ‘Idea of DUTA’ strongly advocates the respect and rights of permanent teachers as well as streamlining the recruitment of ad-hoc teachers. True to its promise, approximately 4000 teachers have been made permanent. Whether it is the issue of ward quota for ad-hoc teachers or even, maternity leave for women faculty, the current DUTA is all set to assure these.
Amidst speeding up the permanent appointment process of teachers, the ‘Idea of DUTA’ also seems to be very conscious of not neglecting an all-round development of teachers. Briefly, Bhagi has promised that DUTA will ensure timely funding to the twelve Delhi government-funded colleges including the regularization of all positions in these colleges. Old Pension Scheme (OPS) and counting of past service with the central government for promotions are very much on cards. Issues related to workload arising due to New Education Policy (NEP) implementation and librarians’ and physical education teacher’s grievances will also be taken up to pursue a much needed relief.
The tasks ahead are truly challenging and teachers’ selection process is indeed a delicate and sensitive issue, just like in any other previous circumstance. However, a new hope has surfaced that the baggage of issues which have ailed the working conditions of university faculty members, whether in ad-hoc or permanent positions will be put firmly on track. This includes matters related to well-equipped laboratories, better library facilities, e-journals and, improvement and addition in academic infrastructure, classrooms as well as tutorial rooms. A meritorious, well cared for democratic and participative faculty is after all, the harbinger of high student output and performance across disciplines.
Dr. Pankaj Kumar Jha teaches Political Science at Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi Dr. Bobby Luthra Sinha is the deputy director at the Centre for Asian African and Latin American Studies (CAALAS), Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) Delhi.