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Samarveer Singh and the 'Double Tragedy' of India's Ad-Hoc Education System

Yeh Jo India Hai Na, here, it’s a double tragedy that an ad-hoc assistant prof died by suicide after losing his job.

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Video Producer: Mayank Chawla

Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

Yeh Jo India Hai Na… It is badly in need of school teachers and college lecturers. It’s a double tragedy that an ad-hoc assistant professor died by suicide because he lost his teaching job. It makes no sense.

It should not have happened. But tell that to the family of 33-year-old Samarveer Singh, who had been teaching at one of Delhi University’s top colleges for seven years.

HOW IS THIS A DOUBLE TRAGEDY?

In March 2023, the Education Ministry told Parliament that there are over 6,000 vacant teaching posts across India’s Central Universities and yet, in 2022, our Central Universities were employing over 4,000 teachers on a temporary basis.

In Delhi University itself, 40 percent of its teaching workforce are ad-hoc lecturers like Samarveer Singh.
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But why this system of ad-hoc teachers? Simple. It’s cheaper. While ad-hoc teachers do all the work that permanent lecturers do, they are not entitled to things like gratuity, pension, medical allowance, etc. So, it costs less for the Universities and for the government to employ ad-hocs.

The story is as bad, as at the state level. Take Uttar Pradesh – in 2020, Anandiben Patel, the Governor and Chancellor of UP’s Universities, underlined that there were over 50 percent teacher vacancies in the state’s colleges.

In Bihar, out of every 100 youth aged 18 to 23 years, only 13 pursue higher education. The national average is 26. Bihar has just seven colleges for every 1 lakh eligible youth.

And in terms of teachers – Bihar’s teacher-student ratio of 1:61, is the lowest in the country for higher education. The national average is 1:26.

The common excuse given for such a sorry state of affairs, or the reason that many of us assume, is a shortage of funds.
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But then, look at this - In 2021-22, out of Rs 93,224 crore allocated to education in the Union Budget, a massive Rs 36,657 crore was left unspent.

Over 36,000 crores were not used, not touched. Why? Samarveer’s family may ask why a few lakhs could not have been used to make his job at Hindu College permanent. But they are unlikely to get an answer.

CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINT NAAC’S CHAIRPERSON

Apart from such apathy, there’s also corruption. In March 2023, the chairperson of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, or NAAC’s executive committee, resigned, alleging “widespread irregularities” in the way NAAC assesses the quality of India’s universities and colleges.

He claimed that “vested interests were manipulating NAAC’s verification and grading process” and undermining NAAC’s aim of ensuring excellence in higher education.

These allegations are supported by the government’s own watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which has found discrepancies in NAAC’s inspections and the reports prepared by its expert panels, which has resulted in NAAC awarding inaccurate grades to several colleges and universities.

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Yeh Jo India Hai Na, Here, when excellence in education is so easily, so routinely subverted, almost like a regular bad habit, the question that played in Samarveer’s mind was perhaps - who needs me?

As we fixate on dropping Darwin and the Mughals from our syllabus, or as we chest-thump about India’s demographic dividend, we must beware that it can just as easily be a demographic disaster.

Without quality teachers and quality education, if we fail to produce skilled, employable or entrepreneurial youth, then all we will have is the world’s largest population of duds.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Delhi University   DU Professor 

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