By an Ad hoc teacher
Sir, you do not know me. You can never know me or my name or the names of lakhs of us who are serving in your universities as “adhocs”. Why should you know that we now form the majority in most of your universities? Do you ever ask the vice-chancellors about us? Have you ever wondered who we are, what we think and how we became “adhocs” though we had set out to become teachers. On this Teachers’ Day, while you are distributing awards to teachers, you will not spare a thought for us.
I and my ad hoc friends often think about you and other office bearers of the institution you call a “university”. At first, I thought it was some kind of temporary malady that the universities had started liking only and only adhocs rather than regular faculty members. I thought it was happening only to me and my friends. Now, two decades have passed and I have realised that ad hocism in the Indian universities was not a temporary malaise.
I was 25 years old when I rejected lucrative prospects in the new, corporatising India. What charmed me was the idea of getting young minds excited about knowledge. I became a teacher. On this Teachers’ Day, I decided to share with you the lived meaning of the choice I had made.
Our university doesn’t look at us as faculty-members and rightfully so; we are adhocs. We are not addressed with our names; a common noun suffices to mention our role and contribution. It seems to be an interesting idea to do away with proper nouns in the university rolls. The university administrators recognise us as numbers and think about them only in the months of April-June because they need to be filled by real people for the “task” of teaching. They think about the numbers and not about us as people with highest qualifications in fields of knowledge. We get subjected to a humiliating repetitive ritual of filling the forms to convey our availability to become adhocs.
The university doesn’t believe in record-keeping, so it demands the photocopy of our degrees as evidence of our eligibility every year. The muggy month of July becomes preeminently disgracing, every year, when we face an interview and answer the golden question: “What new will you do this year?” The true answer that I can’t give is: The excited teacher in me has died another death and I shall teach with newer levels of a mortified mind.
To you, this may seem a small thing. For us, this is a matter of life and its end, leave alone dignity. Our existence as numbers has resulted in a professional life unimaginable for common people. The university gives our minimum-wage salaries of 4-5 months together, saving a lot of the monthly work to be put in by clerks. It doesn’t give us library membership, computers, password to Wi-Fi connections and real rooms to sit in. The problem is genuine, you see. Our appointments are made only for four months, so we get erased from the university’s records regularly and make a fresh entry after a day’s gap in an objective manner. It is our problem to cope with our ad hocness with self-disgust. The university is serious about the “task” of teaching, so it doesn’t give us medical leave or paid leave to get married or have kids. Nor are we supposed to attend seminars the UGC loves so much. If we get hell bent on marrying or going to a seminar, we lose the wages for those days. You must be filled with a sense of pride that the university extracts maximum work from us with minimum investment of resources.
Our appointment letter declares rather loudly our eligibility for minimum basic pay and the fact that we are appointed only for four months or till the regular incumbent joins duty. With such a feeble appointment letter, nobody wants to give us their house on rent. Our inability to pay a decent amount on time is known to the landlords, but you remain blissfully ignorant. In the lives of lakhs of my ad hoc friends, the regular incumbent has not come in the last 15 years because no such claimant exists. You know for sure, as the visitor of all Central universities, that permanent appointments have not been made for a long time. However, to titillate adhocs like me, many universities did advertise posts several times but never filled them. I got the bank draft made each time, and the universities swallowed the money each time. A “thank you” note from the UGC to adhocs is a good idea. After all, we are giving money to the public universities just as the UGC does.
Do you know, Hon’ble President, the wonderful term “summer salary”? If we get re-appointed on the first day of the next academic session in July, we get paid for the summer-break months, otherwise we don’t. This payment is called summer-salary. The universities fill ad hoc posts annually with meticulous formality by preparing rosters as per the reservation norms. The number of posts allotted to different categories is readjusted, depending on the number of people holding permanent posts. Readjustment means chronic unpredictability about the nature of ad hoc posts to be filled each July.
In the past two decades, I have served your university on minimum wages. I am sure the university has accumulated a lot of wealth by denying my claim on the annual increments. This saving can be spent on computers, air-conditioners, printers and an occasional elephant ride. In addition, the bank must be giving a hefty interest for 4-5 months when adhocs’ delayed salaries sit in the university account. Perhaps the chief auditor general can suggest legitimate ways for spending that amount.
Dear Mr President, I often hear you say that the universities need to become globally competitive. I have also heard our VCs talk about achieving quality with the help of Web portals, YouTube and Google. The absence of the mention of teachers in this kind of chatter, Dear President, has dissuaded my brightest students from teaching as a career option. When they saw me sitting in the corridors, waiting to face yet another humiliating interview, their ideas about the life of a good teacher crashed. The disparaging reality of teaching as a profession dawned on them just when they had become passionate about it.
Recently, the chief justice of India cried publicly for the missing judges in the courts. Nobody has cried for the missing teachers. Let us record the turning away of the brightest among the young from teaching as this country’s highest achievement on this Teachers’ Day.
To come out together is useless because we are adhocs. To come out alone is suicidal. After all, I am an adhoc and four months end too soon.