The permanent problem of DU’s ad hoc teachers
In 2011, when Poonam Lakhotia got her first job as an ad-hoc teacher in the Daulat Ram College of the Delhi University (DU), she knew that in another four months she would have to give an interview to continue doing the job she already has. For the now 32-year-old, this cycle has continued for nine years. She’s had the same job with the same pay and no benefits.
“The most humiliating aspect of an ad-hoc appointment is that we don’t even get paid maternity leaves. After having my first baby, I went back to work within 26 days; none of these leaves were paid for,” Lakhotia says.
As DU students appeared for their semester examinations, Lakhotia was among the 4,500 ad-hoc teachers—accounting for almost 50% of the total teaching posts in the DU—who began their protest on Wednesday outside the vice-chancellor’s office against the implementation of the August 28 circular.
The circular mandates that colleges may only appoint guest teachers till permanent appointments are made for fresh vacancies arising this academic session.
This threatens to take away even the little job security that ad-hoc teachers have, and turn them into guest lecturers—a position which pays teachers on a per-lecture basis. As compared to the 16 hours of teaching by ad-hoc teachers, guest lecturers can only take classes for eight hours a week. This, many say, will hamper the teaching and the learning culture of the university.
“We have been demanding permanent positions for all these years and now, with this order, it will only become worse for us,” said 38-year-old Manish Kumar, who has been teaching in an ad-hoc position since 2015.
BIRTH OF THE CRISIS
While temporary and ad-hoc teachers have been a part of the DU’s ecosystem for decades, the ongoing ad-hoc crisis can be traced back to 2007, when the Other Backward Castes (OBC) reservation was to be implemented. To implement the 27% constitutionally mandated quota for OBCs and create fresh posts, DU’s executive council passed a resolution to systemise the process for ad-hocs in 2007. This led to the current system of four-month contractual appointments for ad-hocs, renewable till permanent appointments are made.
Though initially it was decided that ad-hocs would constitute 10% of the teaching strength, currently it has risen to nearly 50%. This can be attributed to the stagnancy in appointing regular teachers. “In addition to the existing vacancies, teachers have also been retiring. All these vacancies are being filled by ad-hoc teachers. Hence, the rise in percentage,” says Nandita Narain, former DUTA (Delhi University Teachers’ Association) president, who has been associated with the university for over four decades.
The DUTA said that in the past decade less than 1,000 permanent appointments have been made.
When questioned why permanent appointments were not being made, the Delhi University Principals’ Association (DUPA) president Jaswinder Singh said, “Due to the OBC and the EWS reservation, there have been successive changes in the roster system through which appointments are made. This forces us to start the entire process again. This is what mainly causes the delay. Since colleges receive hundreds of applications, the screening process takes time delaying the process further.”
PERILS OF BEING AN AD-HOC TEACHER
Kumar, who was teaching in the Kumaon University as a contractual lecturer before joining the DU, says the only reason he shifted was because of the brand value of the varsity. “However, apart from the financial distress due to this ad-hoc system, I am constantly worried about my future. There is no facility available to us for our personal safety or professional development,” he says, adding that he has been actively looking for jobs in other universities.
“The worst part of being an ad-hoc teacher is that after giving so many years to the university, when we apply for a permanent position, our experience is not even counted,” says Nikhil Khanna, ad-hoc teacher of Mathematics in the Motilal Nehru College.
“It is better to leave the academia altogether and probably think of some start-up. That will be more lucrative. At least it is better than being constantly worried about job security,” says Mansi Dhingra, who has a PhD in Physics and has been an ad-hoc teacher for seven years at the Maitreyi College. “There are no leaves or benefits. There are so many women teachers who have had to leave their jobs if they wanted to get married or have babies.”
DOWNFALL OF A PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITY
In April 2019, the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) ranked the DU 13th in the list that includes all institutes of the country. This was the first time since this ranking system—by the Ministry of Human Resource Development—began in 2016 that the DU was not among India’s Top-10 universities. Experts were quick to point that one of the biggest factors responsible for this decline was the shortage of permanent faculty members.
“Shortage of sufficient permanent faculty is a big problem. Since half the positions are taken up by ad-hoc teachers, it affects the overall academic performance of a university. Unless a teacher has security and an institutional sense of belonging, how can they invest in their teaching and professional development?” asks Anita Rampal, former professor and dean of department of education at the DU.
Speaking about how the ad-hoc teachers’ problem has been affecting permanent professors as well, professor of history at the Motilal Nehru College Premkumar says, “Promotions of most of our colleagues are stuck since we also started out as ad-hoc teachers and that experience is not considered.”
“The working conditions are difficult here. Many people were unhappy and left to join private universities,” says ex-DUTA president Narain.
Speaking about the plan for permanent recruitment DU registrar Tarun Das says, “The University has already started the process to recruit faculty members on a permanent basis as per UGC Regulations, 2018. The university is committed to complete the process at the earliest. The University, therefore, again asks the colleges to expedite and complete the process of recruitment of permanent faculty at the earliest.”