Thousands of Delhi University teachers stormed the Vice-Chancellor’s office Wednesday while examinations took place in colleges, to demand the absorption of the 4,500-odd ad hoc teachers of the varsity into permanent positions.
The teaching community of Delhi University (DU) has been simmering due to directives by the university to begin hiring guest teachers instead of ad hoc teachers. On November 25, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) gave a call for teachers to boycott their duties in the ongoing end of semester examinations.
Wednesday was the first day of an indefinite strike by teachers and a protest to gherao DU Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi’s office. As teachers assembled at the North Campus’s Faculty of Arts, they found that entries to the vice-chancellor’s office complex had been locked.
Around 11.30 am, the teachers broke the lock on gate number four leading to the administrative block and marched towards the V-C’s office complex, access to which was also blocked by barricades and locked gates.
Teachers of Delhi University protest inside Vice Chancellor's office against appointments.
The teachers broke through the barricades and the lock on one of the complex’s iron gates. As over 2,000 teachers — including not just ad hoc teachers and members of DUTA, but also many permanent teachers extending solidarity — spread around the expansive V-C lawns, a group went on to break locks on the doors to the building’s entry and stormed the council hall, which is where executive council and academic council meetings are held.
However, the teachers could not meet the V-C as he was not present in the building.
As the mood got increasingly heated by his absence, the interior walls of the viceregal lodge were filled up with graffiti carrying slogans such as ‘our right, absorption’, ‘VC resign’ and ‘abhi karo, urgent karo, sabko permanent karo’. Several flowerpots outside the office were also smashed.
Start of the unrest
The current teachers’ unrest began when the university sent out a letter to all its constituent colleges on August 28, advising them to “fill up the permanent vacancies at the earliest and till permanent appointments are made, colleges may appoint guest faculty, if required, against new vacancies arising first time in academic session 2019-20”.
This resulted in confusion over what exactly were the ‘new vacancies’ being referred. As a result, several colleges have not renewed appointments of ad hoc teachers or released their salaries, and teachers have seen this as a move to do away with the ad hoc system and to move towards a guest teacher system.
“If we are brought back to the colleges as ad hoc teachers, our salaries will be slashed by over 50%. The time spent teaching will not count as work experience to be considered during appointments. Our already vulnerable situation will be rendered worse,” said an ad hoc teacher who has been teaching at the university since 2009.
The Delhi University Principals’ Association Tuesday passed a resolution, stating, “All ad hoc teachers appointed on July 20, 2019 who worked in the previous academic session 2018-2019… will be issued the appointment/renewal letter forthwith and their salaries will also be released”.
However, the primary demand of teachers has become a one-time regulation for the absorption of all ad hoc teachers. They also continue to demand the unconditional withdrawal of the August 28 letter.
While DUTA is currently led by the left-wing Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF), the current strike has also received support from the right-wing National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF), the Academics for Action and Development (AAD), and the JNU Students’ Union.
As of Wednesday evening, the DUTA resolved that the occupation of the V-C’s office would continue till their demands are met.