Summer of 2016: Teachers and Protest at the University of Delhi


 He allowed himself to be swayed by his  conviction that
human beings are  not  born once and for all on the day their  mothers give birth
to them, but  that life  obliges them over and over again to give  birth to
―  Gabriel García  Márquez, Love in the   Time
of Cholera
Thus mused a character made up
of crisp white of a paper and fluid black ink and wondered if others of the red
blood, flesh and bone category, had missed this profundity. Given a chance to
walk down the sweltering
dharna streets in Delhi in the summer of 2016,
this character would have easily agreed that life is a euphemism for
among other things. Politics, it must be stressed, is sum total of what one
lives through: the existence and disappearance of rights and freedoms (
or the lack of it: to be or not to be a Marxist, subaltern, feminist, liberal,
right wing Zionist, apolitical, asexual, atheist, and so on), opportunities of
inclusion or exclusion (in heteronormative or queer groups, religious, ethnic,
racial communities) participation in any realm (the World Bank/IMF checklist:
governance, decentralization, free market, empowerment, globalization,
liberalization) and entitlements (the idea of humans as resource (for?),
fighting for less complex resources)

In the midst of this politics thousands of Delhi
University teachers have been
thronging the protest sites in
to participate in agitations against the University Grant Commission
and Ministry of Human Resource and Development of India, to fight for their
rights, freedoms, opportunities and entitlements. Behind this summer’s massive
protest by these teachers, one of the triggers is the Gazette Notification of
University Grants Commission
dated May 4
th 2016 and issued on
th May 2016, which threatened the livelihood of approximately 5000
teachers in
University alone and more
than a hundred thousand and half across the country
Politics has been life changing for the students and teachers. Yet, changes
wrought by this politics and politics itself are shadowed by stellar
performances of political leadership of the day (their foreign visits, their
perceptions on nationalism, morality, ethics etc). The nation wants to know
more about the fancies of few and less about the basic requirements
(education/livelihood/working conditions) of many. Poor media remains the
quintessential beast of burden occasionally rescued by some stray journalists,
print, blogs and free news portals. This is an attempt from such margins.

The University Teacher’s
Associations across the country are rising against the anti-education policies
of the
government. In case of Delhi University,
there has been evaluation boycott, protests in front of the UGC beating empty
plates (Khali Thali) with spoons, marches with black ribbons tied on
heads, breaking barricades and courting arrest, candle light vigils with latest
boycott of all administrative work for the new session[v].
In every single instance, the number of protesters has run into thousands,
after all,
they have
been up against the short term contractual tenure, loss of jobs and denial of
promotions. The very evident point of contention is around decreased numbers
(job cut, workload, point based Academic Performance Indicator). In public
domain, the less discussed but more significant is the politics which results
in these numbers and consequent downhill changes in the lives of university
students (who more and more, if not everybody, should be) and teachers (who
very few get to be). The trajectory of the progress/decline of higher education
(specifically undergraduate studies) is defined by momentous acts/decisions
like these of the government and the people.

In this context, few questions
arise: What are the contentious points of this UGC Gazette Notification and
why teachers are against it? When did it all start, is this the first step or
nth step in a particular series of changes in higher education in India? In whose
favor do these changes work?

I shall endeavor to answer
these questions in three parts:

Quantification of Education:
Knowledge as a Number
The current situation of
higher education in India is
not the handiwork of a particular government or regime and this Notification is
the nth step towards anti-people trend in higher education in India.

The downhill Global ranking of
Indian Universities, lamentable employment prospects of individuals who have
availed higher education, substantial decline in budgetary allocations in both
technical and non-technical streams in public-administered institutions, inclusion
of higher education in the WTO-GATS are some of the indicators/ facilitators of
long term maladies in the education sector. The State’s proposal of ‘humans as
resources’ (teachers in this case) in their quantified glory working more
hours/gathering more academic points to contribute to nation building, national
power and national interest is misleading. I will focus on two examples: the
controversy regarding workload of university teachers and the Academic
Performance Indicator.

The Gazette Notification of
UGC of 10th May 2016 altered teachers’ workload requirements by
redefining “direct teaching hours”[vi].
Earlier, lectures, practical, project supervision and tutorials were treated
equally, but tutorials have now been removed, and the definition has been
narrowed down to “Lecture/Practical/Project Supervision”. As per this amendment
to UGC (Minimum Qualifications for appointment of teachers and other academic
staff in universities and colleges and measures for the maintenance of
standards in higher education) Regulations, 2010, the number of direct teaching
hours has been increased. An Assistant Professor who was earlier required to
teach 16 hours (including Lecture/Practical/Project Supervision and Tutorial)
weekly will now have to work 18+6hours and Associate Professors and Professors
who worked 14 hours – including time spent on tutorials and practical, will now
have to work 16+6 hours and 14+6 hours respectively. The notification defines
this six hours increase as time spent on tutorials, remedial classes, seminars,
administrative responsibilities, innovation and updating of course contents. By
underlining this increase of six hours as ‘indirect’ the government has
attempted to undermine the importance of Tutorial/Remedial (T/R).  These hours are put within the ambit of
‘administrative work’. This is against the idea of what T/R aim to achieve- a
nuanced understanding of the subject through prolonged engagement with the
teacher. Clubbing seminars, innovation, updating course content as well as
administrative responsibilities (being conveners/members of various committees
in the institution) in the same category as T/R is highly detrimental to
students’ interest as it derecognizes these intensive, interactive,
personalized periods of learning.

The university teachers’
demands cannot be brushed aside by citing longer working hours by professionals
in other sectors or even within education sector. If the quantum of work is not
commensurate with the wages, the efforts should be to fight for one’s worth. The
idea of comparable worth[vii]  (vis-à-vis other professionals within the
country and academics in other parts of the world) is worth extrapolating here
as it helps in rationalizing the efforts/skills required to produce these hours
of direct/indirect teaching. It must be stressed that those who stand on the
abyss of unemployment due to callous attitude of the government suffer constant
blows to their dignity through internalized mechanisms of humiliation aided by
apathetic, anti-worker norms of contractual labor in education sector[viii].

In a Joint Press Conference on
3rd June[ix], the
DUTA President Dr. Nandita Narain stressed the point that Global Ranking of the
University of Delhi has dropped from 254 in 2007 to
491 in 2015 majorly owing to poor student-teacher ratio (20:1 as compared to
the Asian average of 13:1, also much lower than in the developed countries)[x].
This is a reflection of poor infrastructural capacity of the University clearly
coinciding with the counterproductive academic restructuring policies of the
previous and current dispensations (no commensurate hiring after 54% expansion
in student strength following adoption of OBC reservation, mindless imposition
of semester system, FYUP, CBCS). According to FEDCUTA (Federation of Central
Universities’ Teachers’ Associations) Press Release on 2nd June 2016[xi],
this notification

the overall teaching hours by 50% and will lead to a massive reduction in the
number of teaching posts to the tune of almost 50%, thus endangering the jobs
and livelihood of lakhs of teachers across the country teaching on temporary,
ad-hoc, guest and contractual basis, and will strike a blow against the job
aspirations of lakhs of post graduates and research scholars. The sharp
reduction in the number of teachers will also have severe adverse repercussions
on the student- teacher ratio, an important indicator in global ranking. In one
blow this will reduce our public-funded universities to academic slums”.
The latest attempt at
unilateral increase in workload which would have resulted in corresponding
retrenchment of thousands of teachers exposes designs against any university’s
efforts to disseminate empowering education. These contractual academic tenures
(called ‘ad hoc’ in DU) have been running for tens of years in individual
cases. The permanent appointments in most departments have been stalled for
years and a majority of seats have been left vacant to be filled by ad hoc
In November 2013, DU had announced 665 vacancies across 50 subjects
for Professors, Associate Professors and Assistant Professors[xii];
recruitment is underway through many posts till date. Approximately 5000 ad hoc
vacancies have existed since several years. Majority of these posts have not
been announced as permanent vacancies. Now, the current policy takes away that
hope permanently.

The next contentious issue is Academic
Performance Indicator
(API) system, which links promotions of faculty
members in Indian universities/colleges to a quantifiable assessment and was
introduced by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in its 2010 Regulations[xiii].
In the May 4th Notification, the API target for teaching allots a
maximum of 60 points per teacher per year, but the points will be determined by
dividing the “actual hours spent per academic year divided by 10”[xiv].
That is, any teacher who is interested in 60 points will have to teach 600
hours per year or 300 points per semester. In a semester of 15 weeks, this
works out to 20 hours a week. It is a tough target to meet even if no leave is
ever taken on account of personal (medical conditions, other emergencies) or
professional reasons (Refresher Courses or do Research Projects or any academic
enhancement activity like participation in conferences, workshops, symposiums
or seminars). The DU teachers have constantly agitated against the 30.06.2010
UGC Notification on API (adopted by DU on 17.08.2013 with an exemption to all
those whose promotion was due till that date). After the withdrawal of the
infamous Four Years Undergraduate Course, in the Executive Committee Meeting of  DU on 14.08.2014 the then VC of DU withdrew
it and rolled it back to 31.12.2008 which is illegal as there was no API in
2008. The API system has equally been critiqued on account of the
infrastructural inadequacies of public institutions which are very disabling
for the students and teachers (who are required to reach the desired numbers
for their promotion). It casts a negative impact on the promotion prospects of
thousands of teachers across the country and denotes a counter current to the idea
of life, living conditions and upward mobility of workers.

Further, as many critiques
have pointed out, a number crunching index to assess teaching is qualitatively
degrading as it ignores multiple levels of student-teacher intellectual
engagements (for instance an individual’s growth at the level of ideas), and
only falsifiable/ verifiable empirical evidences connote growth. To borrow from
Foucault, this is a new ‘regime of truths’[xv]
in which value of every academic activity inside or outside class has to
be digitized in terms of hours spent. Moreover, precise numbers have to be put
to publication and administrative roles. Only the list of journals recommended
by ‘the ‘competent authority’ are to be used for publication. Another glaring
shortcoming of this system is the ‘necessary condition’ for promotion of
university teachers being point based assessment of intellectual production
that every teacher is supposed to have. Needless to say that the API based
publication race (a la western academia’s plight in the context of ‘publish or
perish’) contributed to absenteeism in teachers, spurious publications and
overall decline in quality of teaching and research.

If a peoples’ regime of truth
is to be built, the numbers in the next part are critical.

The Anomaly: Numbers Denied
Few empirical observations
(over a period of last five years) regarding the state of higher education in India present
the contradiction in the above quantified version of knowledge where numbers
reign supreme. These are just the tip of proverbial iceberg of inequity,
discrimination, apathy, corruption and all sorts of maladies rendering higher
education in India

(1) In the Central Government
Budget 2016-17 there is no massive outlay for education, health and social welfare.
Indeed there is massive budget cut in expenditure in UGC (to the tune of 55%)[xvi].
This drastic step of the Central Government cannot be explained or wished away
by other insubstantial measures/schemes[xvii].

(2) According to the Ministry
of Human Resource and Development Report on Higher Education 2014-15, there are
665 Universities, 35829 Colleges and 11443 Stand Alone Institutions that cater
to higher education in India[xviii].
There are 73% colleges running in Private sector; aided and unaided taking
together, but this percentage caters to only 61% of the total enrolment.

(3) Only 10% among the
university-age population in India
get access to higher education[xix].
This access to higher education compares with China’s
22% enrolment and the 28% enrolment in the US. According to MHRD All India
Survey on Higher Education (2011-12), the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher
education in India
was 20.4, which is calculated for 18
23 years of age group. GER for
male population was 21.6 and for females it was 18.9[xx].

(4) According to MHRD Report
2015, out of the total number of students enrolled in higher education, 79.90 %
are in the undergraduate courses[xxi].
According to this Report, of the total enrolment, Scheduled Casts students
constitute 12.2 %, Scheduled Tribes students: 4.4%, Other Backward Classes:
30.05%, Muslim Minority: 3.9% and other Minority Community constitutes 1.9%.

(5) Of the total number of
teachers in institutes of higher education, about 61 % are male teachers and 39
% are female teachers[xxii].The
United Nations Human Development Report, 2015 has ranked India on 130th
position among 188 nations listed in the UN HD Index. Among BRICS countries, India is left behind by Russia, Brazil,
China and South Africa[xxiii].When
inequality is factored in, however, India loses over one-fourth of its
HDI value, with education registering the highest inequality in outcomes.
There are also substantial gender differences in outcomes; to quote the UN HDR
if the women of India were
their own country, they would rank 151 out of 188 countries in human
development, while India’s
men would come in at 120. The average adult man in India gets twice as many years of
schooling as the average adult woman[xxiv].

Tell Me Your Dreams! And I
Shall Project False Consciousness
If the aim is to make higher
education accessible and empowering to ever increasing numbers, an upward
indicator of progress would be more teachers, more institutions and better and
bigger infrastructure. Key words like National Development, National
Strength and National Interest
always project ideal world and the current
government has also captured these populist sentiments with its own rhetoric.
To quote the MHRD report 2014-15[xxv]:

Education is the most powerful tool to build a knowledge-based society for the
future. Higher Education provides people with an opportunity to reflect on the
critical social, economic, cultural, moral and spiritual issues facing
humanity. It contributes to national development through dissemination of
specialized knowledge and skills. Being at the apex of the educational pyramid,
it plays a key role in producing quality teachers for the country’s education.”
what one witnesses is retrenchment in contractual (and in all likelihood
permanent) jobs, less budgetary allocation, dismal infrastructure, constant
restructuring and remodeling (Annual to Semester to FYUP to Choice Based Credit
System)  of undergraduate courses without
a proper background research involving students and teachers as primary
stakeholders; and over all despondency in the very idea of public education.
This wishing away of public education by the State, and patronizing private
education institutes[xxvi]
is evidence enough of an effort to pit induced incompetence of public
institutions against pitched dazzle of private institutes. The people who
cannot afford to pay the exorbitant fee of the private education institutes
remain outside the purview of such an elite vision of higher education.
One needs to applaud the
Government for a steadfast approach: attempts to limit the scholarships in
the shrunk budget for UGC and curb on dissent in University spaces (the much
debated Azadi) have all provided indications of days to come.

The teachers demand roll back
of workload norms (on 15th June 2016 there was a Notification by
MHRD in PIB of capitulation on workload) and API, implementation of reservation
roster and permanent appointments.  Indeed,
in this Summer of ’16 the teachers are discovering their many lives through Politics.

En solidarité!

[i] The idea is to introduce intersectionality
in various theoretical frameworks of Politics and what of it.
[ii] In 1952, the Union Government
decided that all cases pertaining to the allocation of grants-in-aid from
public funds to the Central
Universities and other
Universities and Institutions of higher learning might be referred to the University
Grants Commission. Consequently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) was
formally inaugurated on 28 December 1953.
[iii] The Gazette of India. 2016. University
Grants Commission. 10th May.
[iv] Memorandum by Delhi
University Teacher’s Association (DUTA) issued on 5th June 2016.
[v]For Details See:
[vi] The Gazette of India. 2016.
UGC; p. 36-38.
[vii] Comparable
, also
called sex equity or pay equity, in economics, is the principle that men and
women should be compensated equally for work requiring comparable skills,
responsibilities, and effort.
[viii] To read more about the plight,
refer to #knowyouradhoc on facebook, twitter.
[ix] Since numbers matter:
various teachers/students associations and organizations have come together
with DUTA that has been spearheading the agitation against the said Gazette
Notification: Jamia Teachers Association (JTA), IGNOU and Ambedkar University
(AUDFA), JNU Students Union, Aahwan, AIDSO, AISA, AISF, Bhagat Singh Chhatra
Sangathan, CYSS, Disha, DSU, KYS,NEFIS, NSUI, Pachhas, Student Federation of
India, SYS. 
Political leaders from the Left Parties, Indian
National Congress, JD (U), RJD, have conveyed their solidarity with the ongoing
protest. MPs from various Left parties have written letters to the HRD Minister
expressing support for the teachers’ demands.
[xi] For details, refer to:
[xii] http://m.indiatodayin/education/story/university-of-delhi-announcws-recruitment/1/
[xiii]The text of Gazette
Notification may be obtained from:
FEDCUTA Press Release, 2nd June 2016. Read on:
[xv] Every society has a regime of
truth which operates on its general politics of truth. It regulates the types
of discourse which are to be accepted; the mechanisms and instances which
enable one to distinguish true and false statements; the techniques and
procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who
are charged with saying what counts as true (Foucault, M. 1991. Discipline
and Punish: the Birth of a Prison
. London,
[xvi]For details see:
[xvii] The
Budget 2016-17 announces creation of a Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA)
with a fund of Rs 1,000 crore mostly used for redressal of the problems of
students seeking educational loan.  Read
more on
[xviii] MHRD Report (2014-15) Chapter
5, “Higher Education”; pp. 84, 92; details of this data, including the
classification of institutions of higher education may be obtained at:
[xix] Findings of the report
jointly authored by Abdullah Shariff (Centre for Research and Debates in
Development Policy) and Amit Sharma (National Council of Applied Economic
Research). 2013. “Intergenerational and Regional Differentials in Higher
Education in India”, Delhi. Select portions of
this report appeared on
[xx] All India Survey on Higher
Education, MHRD, GOI (2011-12, Provisional) accessible at:
[xxi] MHRD Report (2014-15) Chapter
5, “Higher Education”; pp. 84, 92; details of this data, including the
classification of institutions of higher education may be obtained at:
[xxii] Ibid, pp.107
[xxiv] Ibid.
The full report can be accessed at
[xxv]MHRD Report (2014-15) pp. 84, Read on:
[xxvi]In his budget speech, the
current India
finance minister said the government will strive to make 10 private and 10
public institutions become world class.
[xxvii] Read more on this at various
media portals like:,

The Author Teaches Political Science at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi

2 thoughts on “Summer of 2016: Teachers and Protest at the University of Delhi”

  1. A very profound articulation indeed. Rightly captures the nature of the crisis situating it in the overall scheme of things and puts forth a compelling argument.

Comments are closed.