The University of Delhi is replete with ad-hoc teachers: at present it employs around five thousand teachers in an ad-hoc capacity. Year after year, the college administrations adopt a hire and fire policy with regard to their employment, for every academic session.

In the process an ad-hoc teacher often finds him or herself being turned into a guest teacher. There have been instances where they couldn’t even secure a teaching position in the capacity of a guest faculty member in a particular session. Like many others Delhi University has been reeling under this situation for the past decade.

There have been sporadic attempts at appointment in which some ad-hoc teachers were made permanent. However, the fact that there are still a large number of ad-hoc teachers in the university goes on to show that the effect of such attempts has been largely limited. From it we can also infer that there exists a necessary workload, against which such ad-hoc teachers are appointed.

There are 90 colleges under the purview of the University of Delhi. These colleges frequently advertise vacancies for the appointment of permanent teachers. Candidates can no longer apply without an application fee, and each college charges a non-refundable fee of Rs 500 per subject for an application.

Qualified candidates from Delhi and the rest of the country apply along with the prescribed fee, but very often interviews are not conducted.

So the same vacancies are re-advertised, and the candidates again submit the application form with the fee. This circle is unending.

Like others Delhi University has in place definite rules and guidelines for the preparation of question papers for examinations and also for their evaluation. With respect to evaluation there are rules as to which teacher is eligible for examining the answer sheets of undergraduate pass course (now program) papers and honours course papers.

Owing to the declining number of permanent teachers at DU, the ad-hoc teachers have been entrusted with the evaluation of all types of answer sheets. Of course, it is to be expected that teachers coming on contract would also be engaged in the evaluation of answer sheets. But what is distressing is that the administration has not amended the rules to this effect.

The issue of ad-hoc teachers has become a separate matter in DU's teacher politics. Ad-hoc teachers have taken independent initiatives to raise their problem before the DU Teachers’ Association as well as various active organizations operating within it.

But neither the DUTA nor the teacher organizations nor the ad-hoc teachers themselves have been able to eliminate adhocism.

Ad-hoc, guest and unemployed teachers are sustaining themselves on empty assurances. Due to the prevalence of rampant adhocism there is a complete lack of coordination between student, subject and teacher, and the brunt of this rift is borne the most by the students.

It is distressing that the centre of such happenings is a university which was not long back renowned for its exemplary teaching.

The teacher community of Delhi University was harbouring the hope that one day adhocism would end and permanent appointments would be made. These hopes proved futile, as DU’s Academic Council passed new rules pertaining to contractual teaching on January 16.

Despite the fact that Ordinance XII of Delhi University stipulates that there is provision for only permanent, temporary and ad-hoc teachers, a rule of taking 10 percent contract teachers against the permanent places has been added as Article E to the Ordinance.

All the elected representatives of the Academic Council made strong objections to this decision. Aggrieved by the decision, thousands of teachers led by DUTA marched from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street in protest and even faced arrests. The next day, the teachers sat on a protest dharna at Delhi University's main entrance.

The heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces on both the days and the lathi-charge on agitating teachers is indicative of the government’s unwillingness to take back the decision.

In addition to the 26 representatives elected from the teachers’ community, the DU Academic Council also comprises over 150 ex-officio and nominated members, including the heads of departments, professors and college principals. The ex-officio and nominated members present in the Academic Council meeting neither protested the decision nor deem it fit for even a debate.

It is noteworthy that prior to making a new rule to impose contractual practice in the teaching system of Delhi University, no discussion was done with regard to the existing rules. The Vice-Chancellor came to the Academic Council’s meeting with the sole intention of getting the rule passed.

Neither the Vice-Chancellor nor the professor-principals of the university seem to be asking themselves:

If they had been kept in an ad-hoc or contract capacity for decades, would they have attained the positions they now occupy?

Would they have been able to secure these plush posts, grants, projects, foreign assignments, etc.?

The manner in which they have been able to settle their children - would it have been possible in the absence of their present circumstances?

The way they have been able to secure their post-retirement life by way of provident fund, pension, medical facility, insurance, etc., would all this have been possible had they been ad-hoc or guest faculty for most of their lives?

If the teachers teaching them had been ad-hoc, contract or guest teachers, would they have been able to gain an in-depth understanding of their subjects, or received academic accolades?

It seems the responsibility inherent in the profession of teaching has vanished in the vortex of privatization and commercialisation. The New Economic Policies implemented in 1991 in the name of liberalization, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, have made their impact on all areas of our national life over the past three decades. The situation has parallels in the academy in many parts of the world, and in other sectors of the economy.

The onslaught of commercialisation and privatization on the education system of India continues unabated. Applying contractual practice in the teaching of school, college, university systems is a step in alignment with the government’s goal of privatization.

Educators who have vowed themselves to fight against adhocism and contractual practice must not lose sight of the reality that this trend shows no signs of relenting. Only then will they be able to find enduring solutions against these malpractices.

Prem Singh teaches Hindi at the University of Delhi and was a member of the university’s Academic Council.