The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Teachers rally against contract

New Delhi, Nov. 10: University teachers, cutting across political lines have joined hands to oppose the University Grant Commission’s recommendation to hire teachers on contract.

The Left-wing Federation of Central University Teachers’ Association has denounced the proposal as “unconstitutional”.

The BJP-backed National Democratic Teachers’ Front has said the Indian system of education cannot cope with such a policy. And the chairperson of the Congress-supported Academic Action Committee, S. S. Rathi, has demanded an immediate withdrawal of the proposal.

For commission chairperson Arun Nigvekar, pushing through this particular brand of reforms will be a tough task.

“It is a policy of the BJP. Nigvekar is not going to recommend anything without the approval of human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi,” said Kamal Mitra Chenoy, the president of the Left-wing association.

Chenoy threatened that his organisation would unleash a campaign involving lakhs of school teachers — voters, the BJP may like to attract to its fold — if the UGC insisted on pursuing this policy.

“The BJP will face a tough election when we start telling the teachers that they will be the party’s next target,” he said.

Chenoy accused Nigvekar of being totally “undemocratic”. “Why did he not consult the state government and at least two of the vice-chancellors on this policy' The vice-chancellor of neither the Jawaharlal Nehru University nor the Delhi University was consulted,” claimed the Left-wing association president.

Rebutting the UGC chairperson’s argument that hiring professors on contract was a norm usually followed in the US, Chenoy retorted: “I have taught in the Columbia University in the United States. There, the majority of professors have tenure appointments.”

Nigvekar had attempted to link the policy of contract appointments to greater efficiency and better quality.

“What about Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Or the London School of Economics' They have tenure appointments at all levels. Do they lack efficiency'” asked Chenoy.

The UGC chairperson has claimed that only a handful of teachers in Delhi University are protesting against such reforms.

However, both Chenoy and Vijendra Sharma, an executive committee member of the Delhi Teachers’ Federation, have asserted that no state government has come out with such a policy statement on hiring teachers.

UGC sources said all the fuss about reforms was because one group of teachers who had been edged out of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association is now trying to resurrect itself by trying to win the support of their colleagues.

The ground reality, however, does not match the UGC’s perception, since all teachers, at least at this point of time, seem to concur on one issue: block this package of UGC’s recommendation.

The Left dominated federations are more vocal than the BJP-supported teachers’ front. However, the UGC policy on hiring teachers seems to be one that no organisation claiming to represent teachers is keen on supporting.

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