Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) conducted their cultural protest, Jashn-e-Azadi, on 27th March in front of the Kirori Mal College hostel gate against the rising instances of ‘totalitarian misgovernance’ by the University authorities. The stage was opened by a speech by DUTA president, Nandita Narain, who called out the authorities on the recent passage of the code of conduct which, she said, is meant to crush any dissenting voice in the university. She also pointed out the one-year MA course will only lead to further degradation of the academic standards of the university, which is already reeling under the affects of Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP). Other points of concerns were FYUP itself, the second term of office of the VC and immediate filling of vacant posts in the faculty.
Artists followed her speech with their own forms of protests on stage. While former Indian Ocean member Sushmit Sen performed with his band, Sushmit Sen Chronicles, belling out one fusion number after another, folk artist Ratan Gambhir talked about the increasing commercialisation of education. Narain brought the evening to an end by again calling out for the urgent need to group and protest against the increasingly draconian nature of the university governance. She said that culture is one of the sharpest ways of protest and Jashn-e-Azadi was only one in a line of similar events, pointing to the cricket match which was played after the protest march on 14th February. She ended by saying, “Jab jab andhakar ka samay ayega, tab tab hum andhakar key bare mein bolengein, gaayengein”.
A three member committee has been set up by the St. Stephen’s College governing body against Delhi University Teacher’s Association (DUTA) President and the college’s senior Mathematics teacher Nandita Narain for the alleged comments she made against college Principal Valson Thampu.
The committee is headed by ex-Lokayukta of Delhi, justice Manmohan Sarin, Delhi Univeristy Proctor Satwanti Kapoor and Sudhir Joseph. It has been set up to investigate into Nandita Narain’s questionable remarks against the college’s principal.
In the past few days, DUTA had been protesting against issues of sexual harrasment in the college and thats when this matter came into limelight. According to some college resources, during the course of the protest, Narain made some defamatory comments against the principal.
When we contacted Ms. Narain, she categorically denied the allegations. She also said, that a few months back, a magazine interviewed her, but the issue was not very well-written and was misleading and that must have been the cue that irked St. Stephen’s auhorities. She even asked the magazine to issue an apology which they duly did in their next issue.
The committee has been given a two month deadline to report its findings in front of the governing body. Valson Thampu remained unavailable for comment.
On Saturday, 4th January, the Delhi University Teacher’s Association (DUTA) staged a twelve hour ‘standing dharna’ from 12 noon to midnight to protest against the inhuman treatment meted out by the university against the security guards. The dharna was held outside the Arts Faculty gate in North Campus.
Nandita Narain, the DUTA president expressed her views, “The main reason behind this dharna is the ongoing inhumane behavior in some or the other way in the University. There are basically three issues that we raised; Physical torture of guards, restoration of Panditji’s dhaba and termination of South Campus’s Security Officer and his wife who was a library employee simultaneously without any appropriate reason. We, at DUTA, demand that these services should be restored and enquired upon.”
According to DUTA, no reason has been assigned for the removal of the security officer, but could possibly be linked to the fact that the officer, who had worked for 11 years, had not allowed the exit of a truck carrying illegally felled trees.
Their demands, as per the press release, are restoration of chairs and other facilities so that the guards get basic humane working conditions, reinstatement of the dhaba and return of the fine collected from Panditji, the reinstatement of the security officer and his wife, and also an enquiry into the illegal felling of trees and the officials responsible.
The protest, which involves large numbers of teachers, students and karamcharis, was also joined by the Jana Natya Manch, who staged a street play. The DUTA has also written to the National Human Rights Commission regarding the issue.
On 30th December 2013, the Delhi University Teacher’s Association again intensified its protest insisting its demand for withdrawal of illegal suspension of two teachers of Hindu College. The dharna was staged jointly by DUTA and Joint Karmchari Union outside the venue of the meeting of the Governing Body.
Teachers from various colleges assembled there and turned into a gherao when they came to know that the Chairman had refused to allow a discussion on the matter even under ‘any other business with the permission of the chair’. The college authorities even called up the police but the protesters didn’t stir and continued the gherao even till 9 p.m. in the night.
A delegation of office bearers of DUTA, DUCKU and the Hindu College Staff Association, which also included the newly elected MLA of AAP and Secretary of DUTA, Dr. Harish Khanna made a fervent appeal for withdrawal of suspension to the members of Governing Body. A memorandum was presented which laid emphasis on the reply of teachers, the report of Grievance Committee and the resolution of Staff Association at the end of meeting with the Governing Body.
“The college management and university authorities have falsely fabricated the minor issue in a disproportionate, one-sided and high handed manner. It is a pre-meditated design to create disaffection between teachers where only one party is held guilty. The malafide and biased behaviour of the Chairman in collusion with the Vice-Chancellor, who had approved of the suspension, was part of a larger agenda to create disaffection within the faculty”, said Nandita Narain, President of Delhi University Teacher’s Association.
The members of the Governing Body have agreed to hold a special meeting around 12th January after the gherao built up strongly so that the matter could be resolved. The dharna was called off after the Chairman of Governing Body, Mr. Punj came out and assured the teachers and karmcharis gathered outside to hold the meeting. The protest was stopped on the understanding that the dharna will be further intensified if the suspension was not withdrawn on that day following the assurance offered by Mr. Punj.
In what appears to be a very comprehensive reform in Delhi University, students are set to evaluate the teachers from the next semester starting in January. The Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh has come out with this measure where every teacher will be evaluated twice or thrice every semester. Confidentiality of the feedback will be maintained in the evaluation system by students according to him.
This evaluation will be decisive factor for the promotion of teachers and would be made part of teacher’s files. Teachers will be judged on factors like quality of teaching, regularity in taking classes and innovation in manner of teaching. The new feedback system is called ‘holistic and formal’ by the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University.
When DUTA was asked on their take at this new system, President Nandita Narain expressed her disillusionment. In a telephonic conversation to DU Beat she said, “It is a very dangerous quid pro quo situation and only the teachers would be blamed. There is no provision about monitoring and authenticity of the students’ feedback for teachers. Teachers were not consulted in this decision and the VC is running the university like a mafia. When the teachers don’t have the right to design the courses, how could they be held accountable? It makes no sense and we will certainly oppose this insensitive bureaucratic device.”
She also said, “This measure is nothing but a retaliatory action to the student feedback exercise undertaken by DUTA earlier this month at several colleges. More than 90% students are in favour of 3 year UG system and opposed the FYUP vehemently in their feedback. Now the VC wants to harass teachers with this tool as a tit for tat measure.”
Mrs Neeru Kapoor, a professor at Delhi College of Arts & Commerce said, “This system can be effective only when the students are mature enough and give their judgement properly. Right now our university is in a chaotic situation with the FYUP and semester system and genuine teachers will be penalised if the evaluation system is not genuine. How can a student who does not attend 60% classes decide on the effectiveness of a teacher?”
Another teachers’ body Academics for Action and Development (AAD) has also condemned the university administration and called it a regressive measure where complexities of caste, gender, religion and region come into operation and may result in harassment of teachers.
“I think this new system will be good if implemented well. Teachers will be more regular so as to teach us certain concepts which we are not familiar with. If they teach us using models, projects, through physical demonstration or case studies, then we’ll be able to grasp the course easily by these innovative methods”, said Vijay, a student of FYUP in Delhi University.
On Friday, 19th December 2013, the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) brought out a dharna at Hindu College counterclaiming the withdrawal of the suspension of two teachers of the college. The Staff Association of the college as well as many teachers from other colleges accompanied the DUTA in staging the same. In fact, there was unanimous support from the Staff Association of Daulat Ram College through means of an official delegation.
The two teachers – Mr. Jai Inderpal Singh and Mr. Arvind Chaudhry, allegedly manhandled some colleagues in a meeting of the Staff Association on 27th August 2013. On 25th September 2013, show cause notices were sent to these teachers by Mr. SNP Punj, the Chairman of the Governing Body. This memo asked both of them, the reason for not taking any action against them for maltreating their colleagues in that meeting with 25th October 2013 as the deadline for their reply. The notice also contained the complaint filed by the individuals who were supposedly manhandled.
On 12th October 2013, Mr. Punj released another notice to both the teachers stating their suspension, although their response to the previous notice hadn’t been received by that time. The response and proceedings taken by the Governing Body were rendered illegal by the representatives of the teachers as well as called them ‘against the principles of natural justice’.
On 23rd October, the two teachers lodged a complaint that was forwarded by the Acting Principal of the college to a Grievance Committee, which in turn held the suspension unwarranted and the complaint as false.
Nandita Narain, President of DUTA says “The decision should be quite clear at the level of the governing authorities but their decision is absolutely ridiculous. It’s a case where inner differences of the college teachers are being exploited showing larger politics at higher level. This is a step that is taken by the Vice Chancellor to gain control over the teachers’ union. The innocent who took a stand against a tainted nexus, have been victimized. We want the withdrawal of this suspension and an apology to these teachers and we’ll continue our protest till the two get justice”