People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 04, 2011

DTF Victory: A Rebuff to

Neo-Liberal Policies in Education


Vijender Sharma


THE elections to the post of president and 15-member executive committee of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) were held on August 25, 2011 with 68 per cent polling. Amar Deo Sharma of Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) won as its president securing 2,415 votes with a record of 45.8 per cent votes which no one in the past ever got.


Amar Deo Sharma defeated by a margin of 524 votes his nearest rival belonging to Academics for Action and Development (AAD) – an organisation representing a section of the Congress. The AAD candidate got 1,891 or 35.8 per cent votes. The DTF secured 10 per cent more votes than the AAD. The BJP backed National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF) candidate came third with just 872 votes or 16.5 per cent votes.


Three of the four candidates the DTF contested for the executive committee won with the fourth losing very narrowly. DTF’s Abha Dev Habib came first with highest number of votes followed by Saikat Ghosh and Giriraj Bairwa. One of the three candidates of NDTF for executive committee lost.


A day earlier, on August 24 there was an election to the membership of the executive council (EC), the highest decision making body of the University, from the University Court which is constituted by all principals of the colleges and all professors of the University, and some representatives of the alumni, legislatures, professions and commerce and business, etc. Ajay Kumar, general manager, Progressive Printers, got elected to the EC.


The DUTA election was contested in the backdrop of the sixth pay revision with a lot of negative service conditions for teachers, two terms of DUTA leadership led by AAD (2007-11) during which it did not fight against negative changes in service conditions, butchering of all democratic norms and institutions by the previous and current vice-chancellors to force the implementation of semester system as part of the 100-day agenda of the MHRD led by Kapil Sibal and several bills introduced in parliament after the UPA-2 government came to power in 2009.


The DUTA in its history of more than four decades fought and won big battles to improve service conditions of teachers and to democratise the functioning of the University and colleges. It won the right to promotion, staff councils, rotation of headship of the departments, elected representation in the academic council (AC) and executive council of the University and governing bodies of colleges. It fought against harassment of temporary/ ad hoc teachers and for the dignity of all teachers. And it firmly resisted many policy assaults by successive governments that threatened to erode our hard won rights and democratic academic environment.


The DTF during the election campaign approached the teachers saying, “Today such assaults are being intensified many times over. Several bills await approval of parliament that aim at drastic changes in the landscape of universities and colleges through aggressive marketisation of higher education and authoritarian measures to overcome resistance Semesterisation and the points based system of denying promotion are part and parcel of this policy assault. Shall we be cowed down or shall we fight back? And with what kind of DUTA leadership can we fight back?”


The teachers responded to the DTF positively. They overwhelmingly voted for the DTF. They voted for the DTF because they saw over the past two years an unprecedented united struggle by teachers on the issue of semester system, but under an unwilling DUTA leadership. This leadership was forced by the DTF and the collective will of the teachers to fight the semester system as part of the neo-liberal agenda of the UPA government in higher education. The teachers noted that the DTF was always at the forefront.


The teachers at large whose opinion was bulldozed, who were humiliated and threatened by the previous and present administrations realised that the struggle against semester system, commercialisation of education through several bills pending before parliament was the struggle forced by the DTF on an unwilling leadership of the DUTA. They also noted that the AAD leadership of the DUTA withdrew into a shell using the Court order of November 2010 regarding semester system as a pretext. Its withdrawal was so complete that it watched in silence as the new University administration outdid even its predecessor in disregarding statutory provisions, throwing all norms and propriety to the winds, and vindictively targeting teachers who were seen as part of the movement of resistance. The AAD leadership of DUTA did not protest against it at all. The administration's arrogance has been doubly fortified by the concurrent silence of the AAD and NDTF and their unwillingness to even express dissent in the AC/EC. The DUTA leadership had been similarly unwilling to confront the government on adverse changes in service conditions.


The campaign launched by the DTF against neo-liberal reforms in higher education through several policy changes by the UPA government, several bills introduced in parliament and others in the offing, was so effective that the teachers at large started raising slogans against FEI and commercialisation and privatisation of higher education. During the struggle against forcible imposition of semester system, the DTF had through Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) and member of parliament, organised a DUTA delegation to the president in her capacity as the Visitor of the University of Delhi and another delegation of professors to the prime minister. With these delegations and other actions, the teachers realised that the fight against these reforms and university administration can only be launched by the DTF with seriousness. They came in large numbers and decisively voted in favour of the DTF rebuffing neo-liberal policies of the UPA government in higher education.