At Delhi University, ad hoc teachers shunt out of their jobs after years of waiting

Illustration: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

At Delhi University (DU), an ad hoc teachers’ crisis has been simmering for a long time. When regular faculty interviews weren’t held for an extended period, the colleges continued using ad hoc teachers, which over time led to the creation of a sizable pool of non-permanent teachers within the university system. It was designed as a provision to address sudden and short-term vacancies in departments and colleges.

However, a new crisis is unfolding with the displacement of a large number of long-serving ad hoc teachers who fulfil all the required eligibility and have given the best years of their lives to DU.

The plight came to the forefront after the tragic suicide of ad hoc assistant professor Samarveer Singh of Delhi University’s Hindu College after being displaced during interviews for permanent teaching positions at DU. He belonged to the Other Backward Class (OBC) category.

On April 28, Samarveer Singh, a 33-year-old, ad hoc teacher at DU, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in a room at his house in outer Delhi’s Rani Bagh, after being removed from his job in February during a recruitment process.

In a statement, the police said there was no suicide note found, but according to the cousin of the deceased, he was depressed after he lost his job and a different person was appointed instead of him.

Samarveer had worked as an assistant professor of philosophy at Hindu College for more than five years and was shown the door after serving for years. He was expecting a permanent hire at the college.

The death of the ad hoc teacher triggered protests by the students and teachers of DU, who claimed that it was an institutional murder and that a two-minute interview could not displace a teacher who had served for years and had experience.

In a Facebook post, Abha Dev Habib, a professor at Miranda College, wrote that “their lives were wasted…they were forced to work on ad hoc positions for long years…Mr. Samarveer, who was displaced from Hindu College, has lost his life…institutional murder.”

After the recruitment process has begun, the numerous ad hoc teachers are seeing nothing but an outright attack on both their lives and livelihoods.

Several ad hoc teachers claim that they have been displaced and have been left with no other option even after serving for years at different colleges of DU, and their lives are filled with fraughtness and uncertainty.

The ad hoc teachers claim that they were not expecting that they would be shown the door after serving for years. Also said, they had joined the service at an early age, and now they have crossed that age where they can look for alternatives.

In March this year, the life of Ritu Mehta, a 40-year-old ad hoc teacher, changed overnight after she had served for more than twelve years at Ramjas College. She found out that she had been shuffled out of her job and had to discontinue her service. Ever since she has been traumatised and is not sure how she will manage as she is unable to find a new job.

Mehta says, “At the age of 29, she joined Ramjas College as an ad hoc teacher and served for nearly twelve years at the college. I spent half of my life here, but within seconds everything was snatched from me, and I could not do anything about that. Right now, I am in a state where I am not able to find a job, and I tried to visit every nook and corner, but my bad fate is that I am shown the door, or my age is becoming a factor in them not giving me a job. I have a family to feed, but who will listen to that? My mother is suffering from an ailment, for which I don’t have enough money to buy medicines and manage my daily expenses”. 

“I had some savings, but they will drain soon. When the recruitment process started, I was expecting to be hired, but it did not happen even after having experience. I am shattered, and my hopes are scrambled. I have served as a teacher for twelve years. Where will I go now? “, asks Mehta.

Mehta adds, “One of my colleagues was not able to pay her daughter’s school fee after he was told to discontinue his services even after serving for more than 14 years. Now imagine our situation, which we are put in by the DU administration”.

Since the beginning of the recruitment process, many like Mehta feel that their lives and livelihoods have been taken away, that they have been left with no alternative, and that they are facing a financial crisis due to it.

A 48-year-old ad hoc teacher at Hindu College says, “The process of displacing or showing the doors on the faces of ad hoc teachers has been happening across colleges. We are not aware of what will happen to us. I am still waiting for an interview. I see that my other colleagues have been thrown away and have been told that their services are discontinued. I am afraid that if my fate is the same, then I will be helpless and income-less”.

Permanently hiring ad hoc teachers has been a long-pending demand. According to data, 4500–5000 permanent positions will be filled during the recruitment process. Until April 2023, 75 % of ad hoc teachers are displaced or removed and around 2000 teachers were permanently hired.

According to a 2007 resolution of DU’s Executive Council, ad hoc appointments were to be made for vacancies lasting more than one month but less than 120 days. The resolution was based on a report submitted by a committee, which read, “In case there is a sudden, unexpected, and short vacancy arising out of a sudden sickness or death on medical grounds (including maternity leave), abrupt leave, or any other situation that may disrupt the normal process of teaching and learning, an ad hoc appointment may be made.”

Earlier, there was a provision for appointments to temporary positions where the hired teacher would get all the perks of a regular teacher. However, over time, this provision was phased out. Under this, the teachers receive no social benefits or leave. What colleges usually do is that at the end of the four months, they give the teachers a day’s break and then renew the term of service after four months.

However, the pay grade is the same, along with DA and HRA, but ad hocs don’t get any increments. They don’t get leave for professional upgrades like orientations or faculty development programmes, while maternity leave has been given to them recently.

Many teachers contend that this is a fallout of the government not wanting to invest in higher education because ad hoc teachers are not entitled to medical benefits, pensions, gratuities, or leaves.

The ad hoc teachers claim that now they have been displaced and cannot ask for all these basic needs that are required to sustain and feed a family.

The ad hoc teachers claim that they have zero job security and few perks in their salaries. Many of the ad hoc teachers feel that it is betrayal, manipulation, and a state of sheer bias. Even allege that they are devalued.

According to the ad hoc teachers who are displaced, interviews are key to the selection, as is the composition of the selection committee, which is significant in determining who will get the position. The ad hoc teachers claim that in most of the colleges at DU, all ad hoc teachers have been displaced. They also said that selections are biased and quality is not the concern; all focus is on the weightage of the interview and selection committee and who they will choose while sidelining calibre and experience, and there is manipulation happening in the education system.

Most of the ad hoc teachers said that interviews are mere jokes while what matters is affiliations with any committee, clearly referring to the recent removal of ad hoc teachers who have been serving for a long time as a “use and throw policy”.

Dinesh, whose name has been changed due to anonymity, is a permanent teacher who has served for more than 20 years at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. He says, “The continuous practice in DU of replacing one ad hoc teacher with another goes against UGC rules, but the university has been doing this for years now, which is partiality and betrayal to the ad hoc teacher. Also, favouritism tops it; it is like if you are affiliated with any committee, then it is done that you will get the job in some college and others will be thrown away while overshadowing the calibre and experience of that very particular person, which is wrong and an injustice to the right candidate”.

“The ad hoc teachers have given their lives to the colleges and built a good connection with the students, but merely biased interviews are shattering their hopes now and adding more to their miseries, which they have been undergoing for a long time,”, Dinesh adds.

Many of the ad hoc teachers who are still awaiting the interviews are hoping that they will be recruited but fear that they will also be screwed like the others.

An ad hoc teacher, who wants to remain anonymous, says, “I have done a PhD, and I have been serving here for the last fifteen years. I have given an interview and there are more lined up. But I do not see that I will be hired after seeing how the system is playing a trick with us and other fellows. But I will keep my hopes high and wait and see what will be served on my platter”.

Ramesh Prasad, a 35-year-old who has been serving at Delhi University for five years, also feels that the interviews are biased, manipulate, and overshadow the calibre and experience of a person and are a “use and throw policy” adopted by the DU administration.

Prasad says, “I have given a 20-minute long interview where I was asked several questions and I gave the answers correctly to whatever I felt I was supposed to say to them. I was an internal candidate, and they knew how much potential I had and how dedicated I have been to my work, but someone who gave a 4-5 minute interview and has done an MA and has no experience was given the position, and I, being a researcher holding a PhD, was told that I was not selected. Was not my experience and service enough to tell what it stands for to the selection committee, who are sidelining quality and recruiting a person who does not know the ABC of how to teach and how things are done? It is shattering us, and it is a betrayal to us and a policy of “use and throw”.

Prasad says, “The committee should not have to be biased, and influence does not have any place in the education system. Even the government has failed the education sector, so is Delhi University failing us to retain”.