With the Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) winning the recently held Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) elections four times in a row, we got an opportunity to have a tête-à-tête with the winning Presidential Candidate Rajib Ray from the Department of Philosophy in Kirori Mal College. Raising legit demands of ad-hoc teacher regularisation, the greater pay scale for the teachers under the 7th pay commission and putting up a tough fight against privatisation of education, DUTA is vital for the functioning of the University of Delhi which comes under the top central universities of India.
Here are the excerpts:
In your manifesto, the major demands raised by the DTF this year involved the resolution of anomalies of the last pay scale, promotion of teachers, and due placement and payment to ad- hoc teachers in DU. How does your Front after coming to power hope to achieve this and through what means?
Ours is not a party, but a Front and the moment you associate the notion of ‘power’ to a union, my conception of an ‘association’ is completely different. So, firstly, I would like to mention that it’s a historic win for any group to have won four consecutive times in a row. All the issues that are happening since a long time and the future is yet to be achieved. Last year the government came up with a Third Amendment which was to reduce the number of teachers at the departments and we led a huge movement in the summer forcing the government to roll back the amendment. The authorities then came up with the Fourth Amendment to which we are still against, but it is definitely better than the previous one.
As far as the appointments are concerned, under the monitoring of the Delhi High Court after our immense efforts concerning the Law Faculty Case, the appointment procedure in the departments have already started and I hope, that without any delay, further processes of appointments shall commence in the various colleges. The recent speech made by our Hon’ Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar, on the new education policy with respect to promotions of teachers, ‘hire and fire’, etc. and seeing the trend of autonomy being given to colleges, it is very disappointing not only for the students but also very bad for the morale of teachers as DU treads upon the path of self-financing courses and reduced public spending.
What major problems can autonomy and steps leading to privatisation have on students’ lives in DU?
Firstly, the pattern of making colleges autonomous in DU is not a new one, but what we need to realise is the brazen manner in which it is being done. The moment the motion for autonomous colleges passes, the college has to get 30 percent of resources on its own. The question is ‘from where’. The colleges will get it from increasing the fees of students despite opening up of new courses and will have to pay the salary of the faculty through the self- financing courses that can lead to lesser salaries of employees. This method is not only lopsided but will also affect the teachers’ morale. The way to get out of this is to sensitise students and teachers in the public realm about the ill effects of autonomy and privatisation, and can vouch for a huge political pressure on the government. This is similar to the way it happened in the case of FYUP roll back with the help of media. So, the solution is to make it a matter of public debate.
Do you believe that the intense regularisation of higher education by multiple regulators like University Grants Commission (UGC), National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), etc. can help central, deemed, and state universities to improve their performances as we have already seen, that lesser regulation in the case of IITs/IIMs has made them enter the top 200 rankings of the world?
First of all, these rankings that you mention are very subjective and there is the whole nexus of foreign universities that are embedded in these rankings. Also, who decides the world rankings is a matter of debate and on what grounds? The most important help all sorts of universities need is funding and no such cuts in funding should ever happen. Also, the NAAC rankings are there only to judge the criterion of funding to be provided. Public funded institutions must serve the students well and the recent demographic changes in DU students for the past decade show that students from the lower strata are also coming to DU and for them, funding by such regulators is very important. And with a recent Supreme Court ruling, all regulations are mandatory but what’s happening now is changes are occurring in the university without consulting the ‘LAW Book’. So, arbitrary regulation should be controlled. Also, the case for recently opened Delhi School of Journalism, be it self-financing or not, will depend more on the type of courses it plans to offer and the fee structure for the students as well as the availability of permanent faculty and not visiting lecturers.
How do you plan to revoke the problems caused by Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS) and evil effects of the semester system which now seem to be very much institutionalised in the system?
The major problem is there is no choice being offered to students under CBCS, in terms of courses and subjects due to the unavailability of faculty, lack of infrastructure, and lack of payments to be made to teachers. So, we need more faculty and need to build a number of colleges, which is a long way to travel.
What could be done to improve the student-teacher ratio in DU?
At present in DU, it is 1/50 and we want to improve it further. But, normally in such discussions, our main focus is primarily on the regular students and we tend to ignore or isolate the students of School of Open Learning where the ratio is almost twice. So, immediate steps should be taken by the management for its betterment and what is needed is more number of colleges and placement and promotion of teachers. Also for the promotion of teachers, we need to revise the criteria upon which the teachers are judged; for example, if you are asked in an interview in 2013 to do something since 2008, it’s a bit unfair as you were not made aware of such guidelines in 2008 and thus on such basis, you are rejected in 2013 interview. That is what is happening to our teachers at DU.
What message do you want to give to students for the upcoming DUSU elections being the DUTA President? Also, are you able to draw any parallels between DUSU and DUTA?
Regardless of my affiliations, I won’t promote any particular student wing here, but what I want is a free and fair election which is the true essence of a democracy. I am appalled at the increasing use of muscle and money power in DUSU elections.
As far as DUTA is concerned, there is not much use of muscle and money power the way it happens in DUSU. Only various student and teacher groups are involved in our elections. Also, there is a huge interference of the state machinery in the conduct of DUSU which is not the case in DUTA.
Finally, what will be your immediate plan of action after coming to power?
We will start our public sensitising programmes in order to make the students and teachers aware of the bad effects of privatisation of education and approach all levels including MHRD, state, and administration of DU. Our plan is to not bend under pressure of any Vice Chancellor or the authorities. We want to make our universities free and restore their ability to question and debate as well as protect it from all outside forces.
Image Credits: The Hindu