Earlier this month, at the end of a selection process held at Delhi University’s Deshbandhu College, four ad hoc teachers didn’t make it to the final list for permanent teachers. One of these “displaced” ad hoc teachers wrote a note to the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), saying, “I have been teaching Mathematics at Deshbandhu College as an ad hoc teacher for [the] last five years and I have also taught in other colleges. My total length of services as an ad hoc teacher is 12 years. As a teacher, I have always given my best to the students. I have done my graduation, postgraduation and M.Phil. from Delhi University and (I am) pursuing my Ph.D. from Amity University, Noida. I have also the responsibility of sustaining my parents and other family members…. I appeal to… DUTA… to take all such necessary steps immediately so that my interest is protected and justice is done to me.”
Her plea represents the fears that are taking hold of the ad hoc teaching community amid a long-pending process of advertisements, interviews and selections finally taking place across different colleges and departments in Delhi University. With multiple ad hoc teachers not being retained in their positions as permanent faculty in the selection process, unrest over the question of DU’s ad hoc teachers is simmering once again. On Monday, DUTA organised a strike, demanding the ‘absorption’ of all ad hoc teachers.
An ad hoc arrangement
With a massive shortfall in Delhi University’s permanent faculty, ad hoc teachers comprise around 40 per cent of its teaching force and number more than 4,200.
These numbers have burgeoned over the course of the last 13 years. About a decade ago, the number of ad hoc teachers in Delhi University was estimated at just around 500.
The increase in numbers of ad hoc teachers over the years can be attributed to two factors. Between 2008 and 2013 ,almost 1,500 teachers retired, creating vacancies. Secondly, in 2006, central universities were given additional teaching posts to adjust for larger student intake on account of OBC reservation.
Delhi University was allocated around 2,600 posts, of which around 1,300 were released in 2007. While the number of vacancies ballooned, the recruitment process for permanent teachers stalled.
The recruitment process has changed several times, which has led to agitation, litigation and court stays. Protests were held in 2010 against the introduction of the Academic Performance Indication score system to screen candidates before interviews, and in 2013 against the introduction of a 200-point roster.
Even when posts have been advertised, interviews have not been conducted because of a centralised and elaborate process, which has often got stuck because the university failed to send panel of experts to colleges to interview the shortlisted candidates.
To overcome these challenges, university departments and colleges began to resort to ad hoc recruitment.
Every year in June and November, the university draws up an ad hoc panel of applicants to be forwarded to colleges wanting to recruit.
The interviews in the colleges are held by a selection committee.
With a net salary of around Rs 80,000 per month, an ad hoc teacher is paid on the same scale as a starting-level permanent teacher. However, unlike permanent teachers, the only increment they receive is dearness allowance hikes.
Ad hoc teachers are appointed for a period of 120 days at a time, with rules and conditions specified for leave and vacation-with-salary, and possible placement and promotion.
“Some colleges require them to appear for interviews every year. Some even require them to appear for interviews every four months,” said a former ad hoc teacher.
One significant step Delhi University took last year was to approve paid maternity leave for up to 26 weeks for ad hoc and contractual staff. But limited casual and earned leaves, and no medical leaves continues to be a problem for ad hoc teachers.
“There is a certain humiliation ad hoc teachers are subjected to. Despite years of experience and academic achievement, there is a tendency even among students to treat them with a certain disdain. The humiliation of being denied medical leave cannot be emphasised enough,” the teacher said.
Shabana Azmi, an activist and an ad hoc teacher at Zakir Husain Delhi College, said colleges have stopped hiring new ad hoc teachers.
“Colleges such as Laxmibai and Hansraj have delayed their results and we fear many teachers will be displaced there,” Azmi said. “After having taught so many years at the colleges, where will the teachers go?”
Ad hoc teachers at Ramjas College organized a protest on Saturday evening while a selection committee meeting was on, prompting the college administration to call the police.
Ad hoc faculty at university departments also fear losing their jobs. Last week, eight out of 11 ad hoc teachers in the department of commerce were disqualified during the selection process.
“I am devastated,” said a teacher who was not selected for the permanent role despite having over five years of experience in the department.
“But I’m not in a position to question the decision. I am trying to gather myself, I might have to start applying in colleges now. Experience and qualification did not help my case.”
Requesting anonymity, another teacher with similar teaching experience said that finding work after spending such a long time at the department will not be an easy task.
The DUTA wrote to the vice-chancellor on September 21, demanding that “the displaced teachers be appointed on an ad hoc basis against the vacant positions in different colleges, or allowed to continue in their respective colleges till they are absorbed on a regular basis.”
Hurdles in the way of absorption
While the demand for absorption of ad hoc teachers as permanent faculty has been a long-standing one –DUTA, among other teacher associations, supports it – the university administration says it cannot make any commitments.
A senior university official said that it is not possible to select all ad hoc candidates from a particular college.
“A board sits and evaluates performances, publications etc. How far can a college or a department press for the case of their existing ad hoc teachers?” the official said.
“There are many factors. Someone might have a bad interview on a bad day. But we are very sympathetic and want to absorb them to the extent possible,” he added.
A massive protest was organised by the DUTA in 2019 demanding a one-time absorption of all ad hoc teachers as permanent employees.
While the central government did not accede to the demands of teachers, senior officials of the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Human Resource Development held a meeting with the then Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi and decided that all ad hoc teachers would continue working at the university until permanent faculties are appointed, and that the shortlisting criteria for assistant professorship shall be tweaked in favour of ad hoc teachers.
But several college principals said that the demand for retention of all ad hoc teachers is not feasible.
“The fact of the matter is that 100 percent absorption is not happening. But for most positions, ad hocs are only being selected, even if not from the same college,” said Manoj Sinha, Secretary of the Delhi University Principals’ Association.
“The principle of natural justice is also something. Once a selection committee sits, everyone is equal, especially to the external experts,” Sinha added.
A college principal The Indian Express spoke to said that they try their best to get their ad hoc teachers appointed for permanent roles.
“But there are just two or three people from the college who are part of the selection committee, while five members — three external experts, a VC nominee and an observer –are from outside,” he said.