Duta Agitation

Determined Struggle
The Need of the Hour

In May 1997 the Rastogi Committee submitted its report. It had been appointed by the University Grants Commission to make recommendations on the revision of pay scales of the University and College teachers as part of the overall pay revision being undertaken at the national level. The recommendations of the Rastogi Committee were not acceptable to the teaching community since these disturbed the existing parity with several services and changed the character of the Merit Promotion Scheme which had been won by hard struggles spread over the last fifteen years. The Rastogi Committee also suggested some service conditions which would have serious implications for the intellectual freedom so essential to the profession. The Delhi University Teacher's Association during the tenure of Vijender Sharma's Presidentship took the initiative to raise a struggle against the recommendations of the Rastogi Committee and mobilized other Central Universities and provided leadership to the movement. It was as a result of the teachers' opposition to the Rastogi Committee recommendations that the UGC scrapped them and suggested new pay scales.

Teachers have been struggling to get the UGC recommended pay scales implemented ever since they came to light. They are still doing so while in other sectors new scales have been implemented. With the announcement of parliamentary elections, the United Front government maintained that the new pay scales could not be implemented. Despite a formal communication from the Election Commission that they could indeed be implemented, the United Front government did not act. Teachers have been submitting memoranda to various authorities while agitating through dharnas, token strikes, demonstrations and court arrests. It was against this background that a vast majority of the Staff Associations of various colleges recommended strong action including examination boycott for the General Body meeting of 20th February 1998. Even after the elections and the formation of the new government, teachers' new pay scales have not been implemented.

It was against this background that on April 13, 1998 the DUTA General Body decided to boycott the examinations which were scheduled to start from 14th April. The boycott was successful despite the threat of a wage-cut by the UGC. The massively attended General Body meeting of 27th April decided to continue the boycott after the Human Resource Development Ministry's announcement on 25th April of the new grades based on the Rastogi Committee recommendations. The same day the High Court in response to a writ filed by the BJP's student organization Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad against the teacher's examination boycott, gave directions that all concerned - the HRD Ministry, the DUTA, the UGC and a representative of the Finance Ministry should sit round the table and resolve the question. The Staff Associations of many colleges met within 2-3 days of the holding of the GBM and recommended the intensification of the struggle.

The General Body Meeting of teachers of 27th April was aware that it had to prepare itself for a long drawn-out struggle going into the next academic session. But lo and behold the divided DUTA Executive Committee decided by majority to suspend the agitation on 6th May apparently to provide an opportunity to the HRD Ministry, the UGC and the University of Delhi to come to a negotiated settlement with the DUTA, but in reality to finish the teacher's struggle. In fact, the BJP led NDTF has been slowly, gradually and insidiously, but in a planned manner undermining the movement from the very beginning. Indeed, they never had any intention of raising the struggle genuinely and properly. Let us look at some of the facts. That there was no seriousness of purpose from the beginning itself became apparent from the way the General Body Meeting was conducted on April 13, 1998. Launching a major struggle, no proper debate was allowed on the issue, differences of opinion were not tolerated and members were hooted. The meeting was abruptly brought to an end with a closure motion. Pretending to raise a major struggle, the DUTA office-bearers, both BJP and Congress acted most undemocratically by not even allowing amendments and motions to be put before the GBM. This certainly did not augur well for the struggle.

That the DUTA leadership was not aiming at raising a mass movement is clear from their non-action on almost all fronts. No proper mobilization of teachers was done, no DUTA teams went to colleges, no mobilization of the press or television was done even when the TV disseminated misinformation and various Staff Associations sent resolutions urging the DUTA leadership to give correct information to the media, there was no response from the DUTA leadership. On the contrary the President attempted hard to demoralize the massive GB of 27th April. He was joined in this by the DUTA Treasurer Sisodia. It was only the determined will of the teachers, clear from their massive presence in the General Body, that prevented the leadership from withdrawing the agitation in the face of the rejection of the UGC pay scales by the Central government. In fact, the leadership had ceased to represent the teachers' interests and had begun to act as the stooges of the BJP led government at the Centre. It is not surprising that the DUTA case was poorly presented in the High Court and that the resolutions from various Staff Associations for intensification of the struggle were never placed before the DUTA EC.

Having sabotaged the struggle, the DUTA President has been scared of facing the General Body. Despite a requisition by 921 teachers for a General Body Meeting and despite the majority opinion in the DUTA EC, the President has not convened a GBM in clear violation of the democratic norms and constitutional requirements of the DUTA. In fact, he disappeared for a long time and even the DUTA EC meeting was not held for a month. He has on his own changed the demands of the DUTA from the UGC recommended pay scales to the nine points mentioned in his letter to the HRD ministry. This is the document that has been submitted to the court in respect of the DUTA demands. Fortunately, the 'independent initiative' has been able to project our demands accurately through an intervention in the court case which was initially started by the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

While the NDTF has clearly sabotaged the teachers' struggle, the record of other groups has not been very clean either. While conceding that the pro-Congress group AAD, through the office of the DUTA Secretary, has been trying to put the teachers' demands in consonance with the DUTA's resolutions during the negotiations and that the Secretary has been a major source of information on the DUTA's negotiations with the ministry, we have to remember that it was the AAD which colluded with the NDTF in suspending the agitation. In fact, none of the three major groups had intended to raise a mass struggle. In the initial stage all were engaged in double talk. They were taking one stand in the Staff Associations and another in the DUTA EC. Several teachers belonging to the Congress and CPM-led DTF had vociferously opposed contribution to the struggle fund sought by the DUTA.

The intention of the AAD appears to have been to use its crucial position in the DUTA to manoeuvre and manage rather than raise a genuine struggle. The DTF appears to have been no exception to this game. While recognizing the mobilization done by the DTF for the GBM of 27th April and the fact that the DTF members opposed the suspension of the agitation in the DUTA EC meeting on 6th May 1998 and that they helped to gather signatures for requisitioning a GBM, it must be borne in mind that the DTF was a willing party to the decision in the DUTA EC and the GB meeting which authorized the DUTA EC to take a final decision on the struggle and the negotiations. Our motion which would have permitted suspension or withdrawal of the strike only through a General Body received no support. In fact it was not allowed to be moved in the GBM of 27th April.

Right from the beginning no major group in the DUTA took to raising the struggle seriously. Besides the double talk no serious or concerted attempt was made to ensure the implementation of the decisions of the GBMs of 13th and 27th April. The ad-hoc and temporary teachers were also meant to participate in the boycott of examination, yet they had to do not only their own invigilation duties, but any number assigned to them by the college authorities. During this period they were treated as daily wagers. The DUTA did not even take cognisance of the issue, let alone generate pressure to stop this. The DUTA Executive Committee and the General Body have been consistently taking decisions to support the examination boycott with action oriented programmes. Even when it suspended the agitation on 6th May the Executive Committee resolved that 'the agitation shall continue in other forms like protest dharnas, demonstrations and March to Parliament etc.' But this was not to be. An action programme was conspicuous by its total absence. There was no immediate response even against invigilation duties being assigned after 15th May. The authorities were allowed a free hand and individual teachers were left to take their own decisions.

While the President had disappeared general opinion was being spread by the NDTF activists that implementation of the UGC pay scales was not a realistic demand. Teachers, however, were reacting sharply to it and their own supporters were not convinced by their arguments. Under these circumstances, a meeting of the DUTA EC was held on 3rd June, 1998. There was a lot of discussion on the demand itself since the leadership had deviated from the GB's position. The three major groups in a long discussion outside the DUTA office, while the meeting was supposedly suspended inside, came to a consensus resolution that the negotiations with the HRD Ministry must be within the framework of the UGC pay scales. This was the position of the High Court and not the DUTA GB. Clearly all the three major groups have come to a consensus which deviates from the resolution of the DUTA GB which is the implementation of the UGC recommended pay scales and not the UGC framework. It is quite remarkable that in the DUTA EC meeting on 3rd June there was a consensus among the three groups on another issue too and this was their silence on reviving the struggle. Moreover, they felt that there was no need for any further discussion and in fact, an AAD member brought a closure motion. It was the sheer obstinacy of the FDS members that one of them was allowed to speak. The FDS put the revival of struggle on the agenda of the DUTA meeting. It was emphasized that the agitation had only been suspended and not withdrawn and that negotiations without the backing of struggle were not likely to yield any results. When the issue of struggle was raised, the meeting was summarily closed without any protest from any group.

The position of the FDS was vindicated when the HRD Minister refused even to give an appointment to the DUTA despite repeated requests. Since the DUTA EC meeting of 3rd June, the DUTA office bearers have only been able to meet a Joint Secretary in the Ministry. Friends, the importance of the struggle is self-evident. We cannot even get an appointment with the Minister let alone getting the UGC grades without raising a struggle. The UGC pay scales came in the wake of the DUTA and FEDCUTA struggle spread over several months under the earlier leadership of the DTF President. We have been betrayed by our leadership. It is time to prepare for a long drawn struggle to generate mass pressure both on the government and our own leadership. Determined mass struggle is the only way out. If we do not stand up we will be undoing the gains achieved by the teacher's movement over the last two decades. The need of the hour is determined mass struggle. Only active participation and vigilance by each teacher will ensure realization of our common demands.

Forum for Democratic Struggle
3rd July, 1998

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