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How underpaid ad-hoc teachers are keeping Indian universities running

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RTI reveals 33% teaching positions lying vacant across 40 central universities; Allahabad and Delhi universities worst affected.

New Delhi: Over a third of the total teaching positions across 40 central universities in India are lying vacant, with Allahabad University and Delhi University among the worst affected.

Government information accessed by ThePrint through an RTI application shows that until January this year, 33 per cent of teaching positions have not been filled up in the central universities.

Illustration by Siddhant Gupta

Allahabad University has the largest number of vacant teaching positions at 64.44 per cent, while Delhi University (DU) was the second worst with 47.7 per cent vacancies. Although DU has since appointed 140 teachers, it still leaves a huge gap that has to be bridged.

To overcome the shortage, the universities have resorted to hiring ad-hoc or temporary teachers. As such, thousands of ad-hoc faculty members in India’s central universities have been entrusted the same responsibilities as their permanent counterparts. But they are underpaid and many complain they are undervalued.

Guest faculty runs show

The situation is so dire in Allahabad University that most classes are being taught by junior research fellows (JRFs) who teach for two to three hours a day on a scholarship of Rs 30,000 a month. JRFs are teachers who are primarily in a university for research and are seen more like the most senior students there.

The Sanskrit Department in the university, the worst affected, has only four teachers for 1,000 under-graduate students, 400 post-graduates and over 120 research scholars. To tide over the crisis, the university has deputed JRFs to take classes. According to sources in the university, other departments are working with similar impediments.

Although the acute shortage of professors does not impact teaching per se given the appointment of JRFs as ad-hoc teachers, it hurts research output, said K.S. Mishra, dean, Faculty of Education, Allahabad University. Moreover, ad-hoc teachers are paid Rs 1,000 per lecture, which amounts to underpayment of faculty, he adds. “There needs to be a minimum pay scale for ad-hoc teachers,” he said. “The situation of teachers is really bad but we are helpless.”

 In DU, the teacher shortage isn’t just confined to the university level — around 3,500 ad-hoc teachers operate in the colleges affiliated to the university. The university did, however, carry out a recruitment drive recently. “There was a huge vacancy in the university but we have recently hired 140 teachers. This should reduce the burden a little,” DU deputy registrar Meenakshi Sahay told ThePrint.

A senior DU official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the university was going to hire more teachers but after the 5 March UGC order, which directed universities to calculate SC/ST teaching positions department-wise, there has been an unofficial freeze on hiring.

The system of hiring ad-hoc staff in DU, which has been going on for over 10 years, has now become a problem for the teachers as no permanent hiring had happened in the university until recently. There are some faculty members who have been working on an ad-hoc basis for the last 15 years. The primary problem with being an ad-hoc faculty member is that there is no job guarantee as the official term for an ad-hoc employee is only four months.

“My father had everything needed to become permanent but his position was only being renewed on an ad-hoc basis,” says the daughter of Anees Khan, a DU teacher who died last month.

The 45-year old had been teaching classical music in Delhi University for years but had not got a permanent position. “People who had joined with him had become permanent. This was bothering him. He suffered a massive cardiac arrest two weeks ago because of this stress,” his daughter alleged.

Abysmal working conditions

The ad-hoc teachers work on a paltry salary without any job guarantee. Worse still, they do not enjoy the perks that permanent staff are entitled to, such as maternity leave, paid leave and provident fund.

Devesh Birwal, who teaches at Satyawati College and has been an ad-hoc teacher for the last three years, says, “It is a continuous practice in DU where the administration replaces one ad-hoc teacher with another, which is totally against UGC rules. One non-permanent teacher cannot be replaced with another non-permanent one but the university has been doing this.”

“Also, a lot of favouritism works: If you are a favourite of the head of department who is on the selection panel, you will get another extension, if you are not you might have to look for a job in some other college.”

“We are given a letter of employment for 120 days, after which if we are given an extension, we have to be off work on the 121st day and then start working again from the 122nd day, just so that the record looks straight,” he added.

Ad-hoc teachers have been raising the demand to be hired as permanent faculty for some time now but to no avail.

“There are a huge number of vacancies in Delhi University, which has to be filled anyway. We have been demanding that instead of having interviews for new teachers, these ad-hoc teachers should be made permanent,” said Rajesh Jha, general secretary of the Delhi University Teacher’s Association (DUTA).

“The UGC regulation says that not more than 10 per cent of faculty in a university should be non-permanent faculty, however some 60 per cent of faculty members in DU are non-permanent,” he added.

With the issue of vacancies in central universities being discussed time and again in Parliament and with constant reminders from the UGC, other universities have also expedited their hiring process.

“We have almost completed the process of screening for many positions. Our hiring is now only stuck because of the UGC order on which the government itself has gone to court,” Hyderabad University Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile, told ThePrint.

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  1. The situation is very serious. Nobody is paying any attention to the education and appointments..Ever since the so called re-forms were initiated by the team Dr.Man Mohan Singh and Shri Kapil Sibal, it has brought disaster in the field of education. Now campuses are not the place of learning but all types of ugly politics is played in the campuses. Now almost all the political parties have their branches in the campuses. Similarly, all the caste and religion groups have their branches in the campuses like Khap panchayats. Now more than 50% of the students are non-serious students. If such students are ousted of the campuses, all the major problems of the educational institutions will be solved, like shortage of teachers and staff, problem of infrastructure, discipline, politics, finance etc. Situation is so bad that even peons and sweepers give invigilation duties and students sit very close to each other, even three students on the same desk. The government should development some machenism to appoint brilliant scholars directly. Re-forms must be initiated to oust the non-serious students out of the campuses.

  2. The post of Asst Professor was seen as the most respectful job in this country. I tried, struggled and succeed but the word “ad-hoc” has put me in such category which is now seen as the “last resort” by the people. The journey to get this job was full of impediments but after getting this it becomes worst. How can our society be so indifferent towards education? We are offered to offer our service for 120 days and forced to be unavailable on 121st day, for what? Not to get eligible for permanent job. This is the biggest mockery of our education system. Students slog like a donkey to get admission in reputed University or college but they are unaware of the fact that these so called prestigious institutes do not have complete workforce to provide them expected world class education or availing the service of temporary “gurus”. The biggest question is- why is it so? The simple and plain answer is “lack of education” in our society.

    By an Ad-hoc Assistant Professor

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