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No ESMA in DU, Modi govt rolls back decision to curb dissent by university teachers

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HRD ministry goes back on plan to make teaching in Delhi University an essential service and punish striking teachers.

New Delhi: The human resource development ministry has rolled back its decision to bring Delhi University under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), aimed at curbing dissent by teachers of the central university.

It also said that the suggestion came from a section of students affected by teachers’ strikes earlier this year.

ESMA is invoked so that essential services such as public transport, health and sanitation are not affected during strikes. Violation of this act would invite severe action, including arrest or fine.

ThePrint reported Friday that a directive was issued by the government to set up a committee to examine the feasibility of bringing the university under ESMA.

The committee, which was supposed to amend the Delhi University Act and include provisions of ESMA in it, will be disbanded now, the ministry said Saturday.

“In view of the above decision, and in accordance with the direction of HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, the working group constituted by UGC (as per MHRD letter), is being disbanded,” said R. Subrahmanyam, secretary of HRD ministry.

Also read: A guide to surviving and thriving in Delhi University, by Gurmehar Kaur

Subrahmanyam also said that government has no plans to curb “freedom of speech”.

He said that suggestion to bring DU under ESMA had come from some students whose exam paper evaluation was affected due to a strike by the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) earlier this year.

“The suggestion to ban strikes in the examination services came from some affected students during the DUTA strike. We have examined it and are not going ahead with the suggestion,” Subrahmanyam added.

Through a letter sent on 4 October, the HRD ministry directed that a committee be set up to examine the feasibility of bringing exam/teaching/learning/evaluation in the university under ESMA.

The committee, which has now been disbanded by the ministry, was supposed to submit its report within 30 days.

Under ESMA Clause (VIII), anybody can be arrested “for instigation” even “without warrant”. Clause (V) of ESMA states clearly that such an Act “shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or both”.

Also read: Teaching in Delhi University could soon become an essential service


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  1. Standard BJP procedure. Start a law. See its opposition to it. If opposition is is less than claim it. If opposition is more withdraw it and blame it on others. This time the students are blamed. Our brains are not yet filled with donkey dung to accept that bureaucrats were led astray by some students.

  2. A number of decisions are being rolled back. No harm in reconsidering a wrong, ill judged move and reversing it. Ideally, of course, greater thought should have preceded the initial decision.

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