Delhi University

The Crisis of Higher Education and the Teachers' Movement

What happened in the General Body Meeting of the Delhi University Teachers' Association on 28th November 1996 epitomizes the present state of the teachers' movement in the University of Delhi and its social and political limitations. The meeting had been requisitioned by the Congress to oppose the UGC Circulars directing the University to strictly implement reservation for the SCs/STs in the University. Thanks to mobilization by the BJP-Congress combine, there was a large turn-out of teachers despite poor publicity about the General Body by the DUTA leadership. Knowing that they would not be able to carry the House with them, the CPM-led DTF leadership chose to scuttle the meeting by raising the technical question of quorum. For a democratic cause they violated democratic norms. Ever since the reservation issue has come up from the time of Mandal, the Congress-BJP combine has been wrecking the teachers' movement on this issue by raising anti-reservation phobia. Confronted with this situation the CPM has avoided an open discussion on the issue in the name of teachers' unity for economic demands.

The UGC Circulars dated 16th October 1996 and 10th November 1996 only want a special recruitment drive for fulfilling reserved positions in teaching and non-teaching posts in the University. This is a welcome directive from the UGC since the University, despite its own decision, is attempting to make the policy ineffective in teaching positions. In non-teaching posts the SC/ST quota has been filled only partially. This is not surprising since the University historically has served the interests of upper castes and classes. The drive towards privatization has further strengthened the interests of these sections in higher education. The University and its Colleges are pursuing policies which are inimical to the interests of the labouring poor, oppressed castes and the lower middle-class. Substantial raise in fees under varied heads, compulsory inclusion of English for admission in most colleges, having English as a compulsory subject for B.A. Pass Course, non-implementation of remedial teaching programmes for SC/STs, calculation of SC/ST quota in admissions on the basis of the formal sanctioned strength and not according to the actual numbers which far exceed the formal strength, the absence of SC/ST quota in the new market oriented courses in the Department of Commerce are all facets of the caste and class prejudices in the university.

Besides these entrenched biases, the continuance of colonial language policies and some specificities of the crisis of education in the University of Delhi - the break-down of the Pass-Course and Correspondence Courses, non-availability of good reading material in Hindi and the fact that the elitist institutions do not offer teaching in Hindi as also the collapse of the tutorial/preceptorial system have all tended in varying degrees to exclude and divorce students from the less privileged sections of society from any meaningful education. The issue of education in the mother tongue is staring us in the face. Ironically, while the less privileged get excluded from higher education, the privileged sections are misusing the subsidized education by getting admitted in the University, but not discharging their basic duty of attending classes and studying properly for their courses. This is a comparatively recent phenomenon which has added a new dimension to the ever increasing crisis of higher education.

In its newer forms the crisis of higher education has also taken toll of the elitist institutions where it is growing menacingly by the day. Despite absence of rigour and the breakdown of the tutorial/preceptorial system during the past decade, some standard education was still being imparted in these institutions. In these institutions the system which hinges on class-room activity is getting paralyzed. While a sizeable section of the teachers is busy making money, the students both at the graduate and post-graduate levels remain away from the class-room either by joining expensive private courses in computers and preparing for management entrance and the Civil Services examination or else they idle away their time. They manage to combine double enrolment since the examination system lacks rigour and students can do well in the examinations with the assistance of predigested notes, rehashed tutorials and unfair practices.

Academic corruption is indeed all pervasive and is making the entire system hollow from within. Corruption in admissions, hostel seats, attendance and issuing of roll numbers, leakages and other corrupt practices in the examination system, gender harassment, manipulations in appointments, rampant financial corruption are too well-known to need elaboration. This endemic corruption is inextricably linked with penetration of money and bureaucratic and political influences through the instrumentality of all components of the University community including the teachers. Undermining the University autonomy from within and exacerbating the academic crisis, the teachers' movement has failed to recognize and resist this all pervasive corruption. The teachers are as culpable as those students who are misusing the system. Every now and then isolated instances are raised more for gaining political mileage than for fighting corruption. Consistent day-to-day struggles against corruption for academic sanity are conspicuous by their absence in the teachers' movement.

We reiterate what we stated last year in Full-Time University Part-Time Education: 'While a great deal of the rot reflects the larger social crisis, the present is also a consequence of the failure of the teachers' movement to weld academic issues with democratic issues in its struggles on the campus'. It is our sad experience and contention that DUTA has been wilfully blind and callous to the rapid collapse of the educational system. Last year we had drawn the teachers' attention to a report on academic reform prepared by a committee of the DUTA in 1987-88 at our initiative under the convenorship of Dilip Simeon, a report which had been scuttled by all political parties. We were happy that after the elections the DTF leadership of the DUTA decided to take up and circulate the Dilip Simeon Committee Report. But we were shocked to find, as we pointed out to the teachers in Some Observations on the Current Issues Before the DUTA dated 12th September 1996, that the Report was circulated by expunging precisely the portion that deals with the question of academic reform and accountability. The circulated report gives full details pertaining to all other sections except the teachers' own responsibility. We welcome that the DTF has brought out a leaflet expressing its views on academic issues. We hope that their interest would not remain confined to mere leafleteering. W& are sceptical since there is a clear disconsonance between their professions and actions. They are talking of academic reform, but flagrantly supporting academic and financial corruption. In common with BJP and the Congress Party, they criticise the corruption of other parties but shamelessly defend the corruption of the 'left'. The recent struggle of the teachers of the Slavonic and Finno-Ugrian Studies (SFUS) has shown the massive academic corruption as well as victimization of teachers by the Head of Department. It is shocking that the DTF defended the corrupt Head of Department, Prof Abhai Maurya. Despite the unanimous decision of the DUTA Executive Committee to seek a comprehensive enquiry into the affairs of the SFUS, the DTF has brazenly stated that they would not implement this decision. It is in keeping with their having shelved the unanimous decision of the DUTA Executive Committee taken in December 1995 to seek an enquiry into the several lakh computer scandal of the Hindu College Governing Body headed by the DCM industrialist Dr. Bharat Ram. The purpose was not to upset the DTF-INTEC alliance both in the college and the DUTA. In Hindu College the same alliance has supported - the Congress has been actively supporting while the DTF has been silent over it - the illegal admissions of the DCM Business House and its top management, bureaucrats and businessmen.

The same DTF-INTEC-PTO alliance has been in operation in the DUTA since the last election in August 1995. Recently in the case of the BJP's attempt to manipulate the composition of the Governing Bodies of the Delhi Government Maintained Colleges, the DTF-INTEC-PTO alliance made the issue a question of sectional struggle outside the DUTA limited to the activists of these colleges. It was only under pressure from the democratic sections that the struggle was brought to the forum of the DUTA. It also needs to be pointed out that the DTF is aligning with those political forces which themselves have been engaging in these corrupt practices over decades during their own period of domination in Delhi. Let us not forget that the Congress Party had virtually reduced colleges like Satyawati Co-educational College and Shri Aurobindo College to their party colleges. The PTO has the dubious distinction of having supported the corrupt Principal Pawar against the democratic struggle of the teachers of the College of Vocational Studies and of the DUTA.

Lastly we wish to point out that the S.C. Bhatia case has brought out in sharp relief the deeply entrenched gender biases within the University Administration and sections of the DUTA itself whereby the molester was defended even by subverting the rule of law. The struggle of the democratic sections has yielded some result, but structural solutions have not yet been sought. In the ongoing case of gender and caste harassment of Bina Rani, a Safai Karamchari in Hindu College, it is abundantly evident that the authorities in general come out in support of the culprit and victimize the victim. It is, therefore, most urgent that the Wad Committee recommendations be implemented in toto and be taken up on a priority basis. We insist that the General Body resolution of December 1995 seeking the implementation of the Wad Committee recommendations be honoured. It is painful and disconcerting that the General Body resolution to implement the Wad Committee recommendations has been arbitrarily reduced by the DTF leadership of the DUTA to a committee on women's harassment. The Wad Committee recommendations are very comprehensive and these include taking of initiative by the University for getting a Model Bill on Sexual Harassment at the Work Place framed for adoption by the Parliament and State legislatures, setting up of a statutory committee within the University and affiliated Colleges, establishment of cells in the University departments and Colleges besides detailed procedures both for prima facie cases of sexual harassment and subsequent judicial enquiry. These recommendations concurrently contain procedures for taking up suo moto cases of sexual harassment and deterrents against their misuse for motivated and flippant reasons. We further note with concern that the activities of the Director, Centre for Women's Development, University of Delhi, have been inimical to the interests of women. The post of the Director of this centre must be by rotation and it must not be treated as a permanent personal position. We demand an immediate change in the Directorship of the Centre.

The Forum for Democratic Struggle works on the very basic position that a meaningful teachers' movement can only be built around an effective fusion of academic, democratic and socialist values striving for academic reform and social change. The crisis of higher education combined with and partly emanating from an all-pervasive corruption must be resisted with tenacity through unrelenting struggles. We further maintain that each struggle against the academic crisis and corruption and against discrimination on gender, class and caste issues will help in creating conditions conducive for the establishment of an institution of higher learning which would be more sensitive and responsive to society as a whole. It is our conviction that the academic reform movement besides encompassing issues such as quantity and quality of teaching and sincere and efficient discharge of our professional responsibilities, must address itself to discrimination based on caste, class, community, language and gender. Further it must seek to establish a social role for itself in a country where the labouring classes who produce the social wealth which finances education are virtually excluded from it and continue to live in conditions of degrading poverty and feudal bondage.

Forum for Democratic Struggle
Delhi University Teachers For Academic Reform

Uma Chakravarti,
Tripta Wahi

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