The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) called on teachers and students to form a human chain on Monday to “highlight the crisis in the University”. The protest, however, couldn’t garner the expected participation.
The DUTA had called for a public meeting to be followed by the formation of a human chain at the Arts Faculty on Monday. The protest, labelled ‘University in Crisis’, was to focus on a plethora of issues including privatisation of education, the issues of ad-hoc teachers and the demand for revocation of the 13 point roster system of teachers’ appointments. However, not many teachers or students actually showed up and the programme never went beyond the public meeting.
Rajib Ray, President of DUTA, told DU Beat that the day’s programme was intended as a build-up for the protests planned for the coming days. A press release was made by DUTA today, which read, “This action programme is part of the ongoing mobilisation against the anti-education policies of the Government like Tripartite MoU, HEFA, Scheme of Autonomous Colleges, Tampering of DU Act, Imposition of CCS-ESMA, Contractual Employment, Drastic Cuts in Research Seats and the attack on the Reservation Policy in teachers’ appointment which has challenged the very ethos of the University system.”
Among the various issues, the controversy around the 13 point roster system seemed to be at the forefront. Abha Dev Habib, professor of Physics at Miranda House and former Executive Councillor of Delhi University, told DU Beat that the 13 point roster, which treats individual departments in colleges and not the whole college/university as a ‘unit’ for the appointment of teachers, would make it difficult for teachers from reserved categories to find entry into the University. “Hum kya bas ek Ambedkar aur Phule se khush hain? Hume aur Ambedkar aur Kancha Illaiah chahiye”, (Are we satisfied with just one Ambedkar and Phule? We want more Ambedkars and Kancha Illaiahs), she said.
Ms Habib also pointed to other issues against which the association was protesting – privatisation of education being one of them. According to her, even though the UPA-2 government had started pushing for privatisation, the current government had done it with much more “zeal”.
Some students had also showed up at the Arts Faculty. Abhigyan, a first year Political Science student at Ramjas College, said, “We see that policies like financial autonomy – basically privatisation under the garb of autonomy – are just trying to increase the fees of the colleges. They’ve (the government) brought a policy to give loans instead of grants (to colleges) and the only plausible solution to repay those loans is to increase the fees of the students. And that makes Delhi University, the premier public funded university of India, inaccessible to the real India.” When we ask Abhigyan if he’s willing to be a part of the subsequent protests, he says, “Definitely, every single one of them, because common students need to understand that it affects us.”
Yet, the severity of these issues and the enthusiasm behind the slogans of ‘DUTA zindabad’, ‘Corrupt VC gaddi chhodo’ and ‘UGC pe halla bol’, didn’t seem to attract as many people as perhaps expected. Despite the DUTA press release mentioning that “Hundreds of teachers and students assembled today to form the Human Chain”, the actual turnout was lower, and in fact, the chain wasn’t even formed. Speakers also expressed concern over this, urging the protesters to call elected members and staff associations to gather support for subsequent protests. Mr Ray, in a closing remark said, “Make sure we have 10 times more, if not 50 times more (people) tomorrow at Mandi House”, referring to the next day’s programme.
Renu Bala, professor of Hindi at Atma Ram Sanatan Dharm College and Joint Secretary, Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) said the low turnout was because there was no cancellation of classes; the programme was scheduled from 2 PM when some teachers hold classes. She also said that the chain was called off in support of the students of Daulat Ram College who were conducting a protest next to the Arts Faculty. However, neither of this was mentioned during the public meeting.
Making it clear that the protests are set to continue, the DUTA press release also stated, “DUTA has decided to continue its protracted struggle by organising a ‘Candle Light’ Vigil tomorrow, i.e., Tuesday, Feb 26, 2019, at 4 pm at Mandi House. This will be followed by a total strike of 3 days – Feb 27, 28 & March 1 – to intensify the agitation against the MHRD and the DU VC. There will be a DUTA General Body Meeting at 11 am on Friday, March 1, 2019, to decide on future action programmes.”
Featured Image credits – Prateek Pankaj for DU Beat