With ad-hoc assistant professor Samarveer Singh of Delhi University's Hindu College dying by suicide, allegedly after being displaced during interviews for permanent teaching positions, the University of Delhi -- one of the country's most reputed public-funded universities -- reported a disturbing reality of intense job insecurity.
The tragic death is an outcome of a deep-seated crisis involving scores of ad-hoc teachers who are employed across numerous DU colleges and departments. Comprising approximately half of the total teachers’ workforce in DU, the sheer size of this segment of teachers, employed through renewable 120-day contracts, represents a huge anomaly in the functioning of a public-funded institution.
Worst still, a heartrending situation has been unfolding with the displacement of a large number of long-serving ad-hoc teachers, who fulfill all the required eligibilities and have given the best years of their life to the University.
'Attack on Lives and Livelihoods'
It is not just one Samarveer but scores of ad-hoc teachers who have been plunged into distress, given that the selection process to get permanent positions is often based on a mere two to five minute interaction with the candidate, and is fuelling massive displacement.
Clearly, several displaced ad-hoc teachers have hit rock bottom. The Damocles sword, meanwhile, hangs over the numerous ad-hoc teachers who still await interviews in their respective colleges. We are seeing nothing but an outright attack on both lives and livelihood.
The ongoing plight of ad-hoc teachers and the story of mass displacement in recent months is traceable to a long-brewing crisis perpetuated by various DU administrations and ruling dispensations. An army of vulnerable and insecure ad-hoc teachers in colleges and departments has simply swelled over time due to the fact that ad-hoc teaching positions have not been converted to permanent positions since DU’s recruitment process was steadily derailed 2009-10 onwards.
Meanwhile, as more and more permanent faculty retired, and intake of students and appended workloads increased under the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS), new substantive teaching positions have grown significantly.
'Qualified Teachers Languishing for Years as Ad-Hoc Teachers'
Only a small number of permanent appointments were, however, made in a handful of colleges and departments in 2013-15 and 2018-19. As a result, what are supposed to be very short vacancies, as per the University’s Executive Council (EC) Resolution no. 120 (8) of 27 December 2007, have translated into the situation wherein a growing number of qualified teachers have been languishing for years as ad-hoc teachers. The said EC Resolution’s provisions state:
iv) The ad hoc appointment shall only be made for a period of more than one month and up to four months (i.e., 120 days) in accordance with the provisions contained in clause 3(1) of Ordinance XII.
v) Whenever the vacancy arises for the duration of more than four months, the same may be filled up on temporary basis as per due process and procedure i.e., through a duly constituted Selection Committee.
Considering this EC resolution on the short-term nature of ad-hoc employment, and the corresponding stipulations to convert such positions into temporary and eventually permanent ones post a period of four months, it is a criminal apathy that well-qualified ad-hoc teachers have been teaching continuously without being made permanent; denying many of their genuine rights.
In this backdrop, we increasingly hear the rhetoric of the DU administration that the recent recruitment drive is an entrenched ‘commitment’ towards weeding out the ad-hoc system. In reality, these are devious claims that conceal the harassment and humiliation of serving ad-hoc teachers facing interviews.
The present celebratory din regarding permanent appointments – that a particular section of teachers close to the ruling dispensation have generated – actively seeks to divert attention away from the way in which a large number of serving ad-hoc teachers are being surgically displaced.
Absorption vs Regularisation: The Facade of Interviews
Further, what is ironically lost is how the DU administration is illegally converting new teaching positions into positions of guest lecturers; thereby creating an army of more vulnerable, paid-by-the-hour contractual employees whose employment remains at the will of the college administration.
Needless to say, this replacement of ad-hoc teaching positions with guest lecturers has been pursued in sheer violation of the University’s own EC Resolution of 2007 on the nature of short-term vacancies.
While the wider teachers’ movement has been demanding the recognition of the teaching experience of long-serving ad-hoc teachers and their absorption through a one-time University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulation, a new ruling clique, which took charge of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) in 2021, is sabotaging the general consensus, and has propelled the slogan of regularisation through so-called ‘open’ interviews. Reportedly with approximately 75 percent of long-serving ad-hoc teachers being displaced, the regularisation through interviews is a hoax.
In majority of these interviews, it has been felt that the academic credentials and past teaching experience do not count, and rather it is factors such as nepotism, cronyism, favoritism, adherence, liaising, influencing and obeisance which are at play.
Candidates report that they have been humiliated and mocked during interviews, often by being asked questions which have no relevance to their academic discipline. The credentials of several invited ‘subject experts’ on selection panels are also questionable; more so when we consider the conscious exclusion of senior professors of DU from the selection panels.
Further, the sham of interviews is evident in selection panels’ complete disregard for the opinions of college-level teachers-in-charge, who are well aware of the credentials and merits of their long-serving ad-hoc colleagues.
Reportedly, it has been a fight for such teachers to ensure some measure of retention of long-serving ad-hoc colleagues. Harrowing accounts of the ongoing interviews clearly go to show that ad-hoc teachers are literally in the firing line of gang wars as different interest groups seek to abuse the structure of 100 percent weightage assigned to interviews to pack their candidates into advertised posts.
Displacement as the Highest Form of Political Cronyism
Though nepotism and favouritism were never missing from earlier interviews for teaching jobs, what has become the dominant feature of the current recruitment drive is the sheer political nature of a sizeable number of appointments made.
It is an open secret that the current right-wing ruling dispensation has been weak in academia because it is steeped in a world view which requires complete subservience and uncritical adherence to certain dogmatic understandings of the social system. This has resulted in a paucity of intellectuals in the ruling camp who can draw recognition for intellectual prowess within the domestic and international community of scholars and social scientists.
Within this milieu, there is a desperate endeavour of the ruling clique – in connivance, of course, with university administrations – to pack mediocre candidates into all the key central universities, who in turn would remain subservient to the world view of ruling elites.
Needless to say, the lonely hour of political cronyism never comes, and is always combined with other kinds of nepotism and corrupt practices. It remains an undeniable fact that there is a hidden game plan of the ruling dispensation to dominate over knowledge production and its dissemination.
(Dr Maya John is member, academic council (2023-2025), Delhi University.)