DELHI: DTF Scores Historic Victory in DUTA Elections
Sanjaya Kumar Bohidar
The victory of the Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) in the elections for the post of President and membership of the Executive of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) held on August 29, is a historic victory. Rajib Ray, the DTF candidate for the post of DUTA president, was elected for a second term defeating in a straight contest the BJP-affiliated National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF). The Congress-affiliated groups had not put up any candidate for the post. This was the fifth consecutive term – each term is for two years – that the DTF has been entrusted with the leadership of the DUTA. No other organisation has ever secured teachers’ trust for more than two consecutive terms.
CONTEXT OF THE VICTORY
What makes the DTF victory historic is not so much these records, but the context and the circumstances under which the teachers of Delhi University responded to keep the DUTA as an independent body, a body representing interests of education and of teachers. Teachers of Delhi University have experienced immense suffering during the past decade: stoppage of appointment leading to half the teachers working in ad hoc capacity subject to renewal every four months, denial of the opportunity for promotion to thousands of permanent teachers, not counting the past services rendered prior to their appointment for the purpose of promotion, illegal demands for recovery from salaries under various excuses, and the cruel denial of pension to the elderly under the direction from the BJP government.
Many of these issues remain unresolved despite the DTF-led DUTA continuously agitating on these issues due to a government bent on reducing funding and introducing several measures to push universities and colleges towards greater self-financing, ie, raising resources from the market. The vice-chancellors by the government have been equally responsible for some of these assaults on teachers. From 2010 to 2015, the university had a VC who was authoritarian and vindictive. He assaulted teachers’ service conditions. He ruled with intimidation and punitive actions against all forms of dissent and protest. He has been followed by the current VC who is apathetic to concerns of teachers as well as teaching. While intimidation and silencing of dissent hasn’t happened, inaction on all matters, let alone resolution of issues about which teachers have been agitating, has prolonged and aggravated teachers’ suffering.
Further, teachers’ role in academic decision making has been severely undermined. Most institutions charged with providing refresher courses, orientation courses and faculty development programmes for teachers have been handed over to the RSS. Sanchalaks, pracharaks, chintaks and babas of RSS kind are the main speakers and performers. Teachers are dissuaded from asking them questions over what they speak. In the case of undergraduate syllabus, topics and readings in syllabi proposed by teachers have now been censored as the administration has surrendered academic autonomy to the RSS. The RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is allowed by the administration to intimidate teachers, heads of the departments and academic council members.
The BJP-affiliated NDTF tried to dishonestly and in a most cynical manner exploit the pain of the teachers and exploit their vulnerability by making a false promise that it can get relief for teachers without the need for struggles because of its proximity to the government. NDTF displayed its muscle as the sarkari organisation with considerable power over the university administration. It held a meeting where some principals of colleges and university officials came together to seek vote for the NDTF candidate.
The DTF appealed to teachers to understand problems afflicting them in a teacher like manner. It put forth how the government machinations and complicity of the university administration has created this prolonged unprecedented situation. The targets are both teachers and their collective association. It reminded the teachers of their own participation in glorious and successful struggles: against the government attempt to increase teachers’ workload and reduce the number of teachers by half; against the government demand that teachers will get revised pay only if they get involved in marketing education to help universities and colleges raise resources and bear 30 per cent of financial expenditure; and the government evasion on the issue of a just reservation roster.
The DTF brought to teachers’ attention the Draft National Education Policy. The draft is a coherent framework of privatisation of school as well as higher education. In the case of higher education, it is designed to facilitate expansion of private sector on the one hand and privatisation of the government funded institutions through handing over the governance of each institution to a privatised board of governors (BoG).
All government regulations regarding input requirements, qualification of teachers, adequate salary structure to attract talent to teaching profession, attractive promotion scheme and other service conditions are to go. It proposes deregulating education business. The BoG of each institution will have full power over these matters much like private companies have full power in matters of their employees and resources. The BoG will have full power over the academic activities and goals of the institution much like private companies setting their own goals and deciding their own activities.
That is why, the draft proposes that immediately following the adoption of the policy, every public-funded institution will be under a BoG by 2020. Private institutions can continue with their present form of governance till 2030 since the privatisation task is not hampered by the private institutions. Teachers will be less than one third of the members of the BoG and that too by nomination. Effectively, teachers will have no say in academic decision making and will be under full mercy (hire and fire) of the BoG which will be controlled by private individuals associated with businesses or RSS like cultural organisations! The number of higher educational institutions are to be reduced over a ten year period from the present 41,000 to only 15,000. The managements will play a crucial role in the required mergers, closures and takeovers. The public funded institutions have been promised adequate, not full, funding for their activities under the ownership and direction of the respective BoG. They are supposed to create a development office whose job is to look for avenues to generate financial resources for the institutions.
The NDTF refused to enter into a debate over the Draft National Education Policy and tried to mislead teachers that talking about national/international issues is a diversion away from issues related to their permanent recruitment, promotion and pension. The DTF had to reach out to individual teachers across departments and over 70 colleges to talk to teachers about the nature of the draft. It took time for many teachers to appreciate that something much worse than the bad times they have had for over a decade was possible. Dialogue helped and teachers rose above their suffering to keep DUTA as an independent and fighting organisation. They appreciated DTF’s argument that the struggle for lost rights, unjust impositions must be combined with a broader all-encompassing struggle against the proposed National Education Policy. They appreciated DTF’s candid submission that the DUTA alone cannot win that battle. Teachers and students across the country have to come together and get concerned citizens to join so as to turn public opinion against the government’s privatisation agenda in the field of education.