The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Caste query in varsity

New Delhi, June 25: A questionnaire sent to SC/ST teachers of Delhi University on biases/problems faced at the workplace has caused the worst caste-based division in their ranks in a decade.

About 400 SC/ST faculty members have backed the university’s initiative, but those dabbling in “upper caste politics” have termed it “divisive”.

The split in faculty ranks occurred after the questionnaire was sent out to 79 DU colleges on March 10. It was to have been returned by March 24, but wasn’t because of discontent among senior teachers.

Among the things the questionnaire ' a copy is with The Telegraph ' seeks to know are “difficulties” that have been/are being faced by SC/ST teachers and the kind of “cooperation” they have got from college authorities.

Unlike AIIMS doctors who took to the streets to protest the OBC quota, both sides have been proceeding cautiously. Each believes it can convince enough members in DU’s decision-making bodies ' the academic and executive councils ' of the “correctness” of its point of view.

The last time such a divide occurred was in 1996, when reservation was introduced in teaching posts.

The questionnaire was sent along with a letter, signed by DU deputy registrar H.S. Ba, asking college principals to ensure it reaches all SC/ST teachers working under them.

Members of the BJP-led National Democratic Teachers’ Front have slammed the move, saying the inquiry would “lead to social tension”.

“There is no need for such a questionnaire. It is unconstitutional,” front member Rajneesh Mishra said.

“There is no discrimination on caste lines when teachers are given posts by colleges.”

But senior English professor Tripta Wahi felt otherwise. “This questionnaire will in itself not harm anybody’s interests. The opposition is politically motivated.”

Shrimati Chakraborty, head of the department of East Asian studies, said there could be other reasons for the opposition, too.

For instance, although nearly 1,500 faculty posts are reserved for SC/ST teachers, only 400 of these are held by them. The remainder is allotted to general category candidates on an ad hoc basis.

“If the SC/ST candidates do not speak (English) fluently, they are often not considered,” said Ratan Lal, professor of history of Hindu College.

“This move would ensure authorities have all the data on vacant posts which would then prevent such illegal postings in various colleges.”

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