A game of catchy acronyms is being played by the opposition parties and groups in the country. At the national level, 26 Opposition parties have come together under the banner of Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A) to take on the lone Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the next year’s general election. Similarly, for the forthcoming Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) elections which are scheduled for September 27, 2023, several teachers’ associations and individuals at Delhi University have come together under the banner of the Democratic United Teachers’ Alliance (D.U.T.A.) to take on the present DUTA president Prof. A K Bhagi led National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF).
From a psychological point of view, coming together of different groups or political parties with varying interests and ideologies to take on a lone candidate shows the unpopularity of their collective vision and lack of trust among masses and in this case among teacher community of Delhi University. In the last polls held in 2021, Prof. A K Bhagi created history by securing 52 per cent of the valid votes and thus NDTF winning DUTA polls after a gap of 22 years. Unpaid salaries in AAP led Delhi government-funded colleges and unstated ban on the regularisation of Adhoc Teachers and issues in promotions were the main reason for defeat of opposition backed candidates. In a short period of two years, having being delivered on the 3Ps namely issues of pensions, promotions and permanent appointment in the varsity, Prof. A K Bhagi is once again the favourite for teachers community and hence the coming together of groups and individual whose political masters are still fighting each other in different states.
Here, it is pertinent to explain as why left and congress backed teacher’s organisations despite controlling DUTA for more than two decades failed in resolving the outstanding issues concerning the teacher’s community and as to why Prof. A K Bhagi led NDTF is once again favourite for the teacher community of the varsity.
Before Prof. A K Bhagi became DUTA President in 2021, DUTA was a mere political platform for the left and congress backed teacher’s organisations who used to play the game of good cop and bad cop. These groups by focussing on the controversial issues of national politics side lined the outstanding issues concerning the teachers’ community and the varsity. For years, under the reign of left backed Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) and Dr Aditya Narayan Misra (Joint opposition alliance candidate for this year elections), virtually no regular appointments happened except for the one batch of appointments in the year 2015. Similarly, in the period of around 12 to 13 years, only a few promotions have taken place and that too from level one to two. Thus due to denial of timely promotions, an academic stagnation had become the norm for around 3000 permanent faculties of the university.
Also, despite sanctioned posts existing and no official ban on regularisation by either government or the UGC, more than 4000 teachers of the varsity worked in the Adhoc capacity. To make things worse for Adhoc teachers, service rendered under Adhoc capacity was not counted for the purposes of promotions when these teachers got permanent appointments. It was like you serve the University for 20 years and when you get permanent appointment, these two decades become a big zero! All these problems of Adhocism and promotions remained in the poster of DUTA just for the sake of it. Situation took such a bad shape that teacher’s community sort of lost hope on the solution of these issues. Advertisements used to come just to get lapsed and aspirants stopped taking these advertisements seriously knowing fully well that interview won’t be conducted. Thus this criminal negligence of the issues of teacher’s community made the complete mockery of the university system, Adhoc guidelines and the vision of the new government that came up in 2014. This situation stared finally improving when NDTF led DUTA took over after the gap of around 22 years and even before that NDTF functionaries like Prof. A K Bhagi and Prof. Virendra Singh Negi as part of the Executive Council were responsible for many positive interventions from the university administration concerning the issues of teacher’s community.
As pointed out in the above paragraph that previous teacher’s bodies at DUTA miserably failed to resolve the outstanding issues related to academic workload, pension, promotion and permanent appointment of teachers. It used to be a common talk among the teachers community that permanent appointment and regularisation of Adhoc teachers is not possible. NDTF led DUTA achieved this impossible task with more than 3000 permanent appointments so far. Also, more than 10,000 unit promotions have been done in the colleges and departments. As a result, more than 600 teachers have become professors in colleges and many have become senior professors in departments. In the on-going recruitment, so far, more than 400 displaced teachers have been reappointed due to relentless efforts of Prof. A K Bhagi. Apart from these major steps, withdrawal of controversial readings from the DU syllabus and making it in tune with Indic civilizational values, teachers and students friendly M.Phil./Ph.D. ordinance VI B allowing college teachers to become Ph. D. supervisors at par with department teachers (it was withdrawn and made discriminatory by the previous regime) and stopping DU administration from adopting the FYUP and Autonomous College scheme are some of other noteworthy achievements of the NDTF over the years.
Unlike the D.U.T.A grouping whose campaign rests on the negative campaigning and fear mongering on the issues of displacement of teachers, past services counts and New Education Policy, NDTF has clearly stated its position regarding these issues and NDTF has promised to resolve the pending issues of permanent appointment, past service count in promotions, academic workload, NEP and extension of Old Pension Scheme to all. While NDTF sees so much potential in New Education Policy (NEP) for transforming the teaching-learning process along with restructuring of higher education but at the same time, it proposes that the objectionable points of NEP such as no elected representation of teachers in statutory bodies, probation period beyond one year has to be removed. Also, it is in support of 100 per cent government funding to central universities and colleges etc. Regarding the issue of promotion, due to persistent efforts of NDTF, UGC came up with a new teacher’s friendly promotion scheme as announced by UGC regulations 2018 and via subsequent amendments in it, time bound processing of pending promotion cases through it are being pursued. Also, it stands for counting of full past service (ad hoc and post-doctoral) in promotions. NDTF is firm on its position of ending Adhocism in the varsity and its colleges and completing the process of permanent recruitments in all colleges and department of the varsity. NDTF has also stated that it is pursuing for the same retirement age for librarians and physical education teachers. Last but not least, NDTF is actively pursuing the additional sanction of money for new EWS expansion teaching positions and to settle OBC second tranche teaching positions.
Against this vision to transform the teaching-learning process of the university via progressive and reformist policies, D.U.T.A groupings, as usual has relied on the unfounded fear mongering centred on the displacement of teachers, New Education Policy and is opposing the on-going recruitment drive. These very outstanding issues remained pending for years as DUTA was used as a political platform to politically fight Modi/NDA Government instead of working for teacher’s issues which is the main function of DUTA in the first place. One instance of opposition groups still acting on the behest of their political masters is the issue of delay in the payments of salaries to the 12 Delhi government funded colleges. Also, due to opposition from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) backed administration in these colleges, recruitment notifications for permanent posts have been delayed. Interestingly, the joint candidate of this D.U.T.A alliance who is backed by AAP has remained silent on these issues concerning the teacher community. In this context, NDTF’s position differs from that of these opposition alliance partners. NDTF under the dynamic leadership of Prof A K Bhagi has believed in putting the teachers’ issues at the centre while relying on the method of struggle and negotiation to secure the interest of teacher’s community.
The teaching community has seen substantial changes in the condition of services in the last two years with not only in terms of long withheld promotions but also restructuring and resolving the issue of academic workload. Advent of professorship in the colleges met the long lasting demand of teachers and conferred them with recognition and respect. Also, the dynamic leadership of Prof A K Bhagi has been instrumental in starting the process of appointment of teachers at the entry level in colleges and various departments which was kept pending for years. It is in this context, that teachers’ community supported the NDTF led candidates for Executive and Academic council election which were held earlier this year. While NDTF’s Sunil Kumar garnered the historic maximum number of votes in the varsity’s Executive Council election and for Academic Council, all seven candidates fielded by NDTF got elected. This huge mandate by the teacher’s community reflects their trust in the policies and paths of reformation and reclamation of university system which places teacher’s interest at the core instead of using it as a space for unnecessary political posturing as done by previous regimes. Further, these elections also signalled the fact that teachers’ community rejected the negativity of opposition groups on permanent recruitments process and their imagined bogey of privatizations and contractualisation.
Thus importance of being Bhagi lies in fact of unwavering commitment to the interest of teachers of varsity and certainly not in uniting scattered and visionless varying opposition groups. Going forward in this election, completing the process of permanent recruitment of teachers and regularisation of ad-hoc teachers, full past service count in promotions of teachers, Old Pension Scheme and beyond this, regular grants to the 12 Delhi government-funded colleges and starting the recruitment drive in these colleges are the stated targets of Prof A K Bhagi led NDTF team.