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No maternity leave, no medical leave, no earned leave and only one sanctioned leave per month.
This is how 40 per cent of teachers at India’s premier Delhi University teach some of the best minds in the country.
Many teachers at DU who have been working on an ad hoc or makeshift basis for over a decade — with almost no job security — called the arrangement unfair and exploitative.
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“As an ad hoc, I am supposed to work twice as hard as permanent teachers, pick up after them, make sure I am on good terms with the college principal and the teacher in charge. I have to be at every invigilation and answer sheet checking duty I am assigned so that I am not debarred from my job. To appease my principal and colleagues, I have to teach longer hours, do clerical work assigned to teachers and make the semester timetable. Even then, I can be removed from my position after four months if the college deems fit,” said a teacher who has been working at a south campus college for over five years.
Services of ad hoc teachers can be terminated without notice and most teachers The Indian Express spoke to did not want to be identified as they feared they would be removed from their jobs.
Of the 10,000 teachers at DU colleges and departments, close to 4,000 are serving on ad hoc basis.
Over the last six years, teachers say, the problem of ad hocism in DU has ballooned. With the OBC expansion of 2008, the number of teaching posts also increased by 3,500 — from 6,500 to 10,000. But only a fraction of these were filled till 2010, and since then only 700 more appointments have been made.
Plus, a large number of teachers who joined DU after a workforce expansion in 1970 retired between 2008 and 2013. This created another sizeable chunk of vacancies, which were filled by ad hoc teachers.
University rules state that a teacher should not work as an ad hoc for more than four months. And if they do, they should be hired temporarily. A temporary teacher gets leaves, grants and increments, just like permanent teachers — everything an ad hoc teacher does not. To work around this rule, colleges hire teachers for four months. They are then asked to join again after a break of 1-3 days.
This ‘break in service’ means teachers are not eligible for a temporary position or for seniority. The last recruitment drive in DU was conducted in 2013-14, when close to 700 teachers were hired on a permanent basis. Since then, university officials have periodically assured that appointments will start again.
There are, however, roadblocks. The biggest one, over which DU and the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) have been at loggerheads, is “the roster”.
The roster is a formulation of the Centre which tells government organisations how to hire personnel keeping in mind the mandatory 49.5 per cent reservation norms.
Of all the posts vacant in government organisations, including universities, 15 per cent are to be reserved for Scheduled Castes, 7.5 per cent for Scheduled Tribes and 27 per cent for Other Backward Castes.
A 200-point roster finalised by the Department Of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is meant to ensure the norms are followed.
The new roster finalised by DU in 2013, teachers allege, is a distortion of the guidelines and will result in an unequal distribution of reserved seats in each university and college department.
The university denies these allegations, and a case is underway in the Delhi High Court.
Bone of contention
These developments have driven a wedge between teachers. On one side are teachers who want appointments to go ahead as per DU’s roster for want of anything better. Others, including the DUTA leadership, have thrown their weight behind DoPT’s 200-point roster and have demanded that appointments be made only according to that one.
“If appointments are made according to the university’s roster, there is a big chance they will be challenged in court. Appointments will then be in jeopardy. We want appointments at the earliest but on the condition that they are made according to the DoPT roster,” said Rudrashish Chakraborty, who teaches English at Kirori Mal College and has been at the forefront of the issue.
Most permanent teachers in the university today have worked as ad hocs at some point.
“I worked as an ad hoc for five years before I was hired permanently in 2005. It did put pressure on me when it came to planning my life as there were no leaves and no security, but what was earlier happening to a few people is now happening to a very large number. DU is not alone in its struggle. We, in fact, are among the last few to fall prey to this malaise. At least in DU, the salary disparity is less… In other places, ad hoc teachers are paid Rs 25,000,” said Abha Dev Habib, who teaches physics at Miranda House.