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Financial crisis in Delhi University reflects on its falling stature

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By Sidharth Mishra

Delhi University must not have ever felt such unwanted as its happening today. In the centenary years of this prestigious university, its main funding agencies – Central government-controlled University Grants Commission and Delhi government-controlled Directorate of Higher Education have squeezed the supplies.

What’s most amusing is that in midst of such financial crisis, the university community instead of coming together remains a divided house. While the teachers group backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have their guns trained on the Arvind Kejriwal government, the teachers aligned to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are baying for the centre’s blood.

All this is happening as the campus is getting ready to send a new set of teachers’ representatives to the Academic and the Executive Council. The focus of the campaign is rather on whose cadres are getting displaced in the ongoing round of permanent appointments of teachers, whose cadres getting absorbed.

On the issue of non-release of funds by the Delhi government, opposition BJP MLAs have been demonstrating outside the residence of the Chief Minister. The representatives of AAP’s teachers’ body are more concerned that the rights of the elected government to nominate governing body members of the 12 colleges funded by them should not be taken away.

However, they must appreciate that they draw their right to govern as funding agency and they have failed in funding, they have no right to govern. Despite releasing some funds over the weekend the deficit remains to the tune of Rs 113 crore.  

As a counter, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has written to the Vice-Chancellor to absorb all the ad hoc teachers working in the colleges of the university. The letter from Sisodia to the Vice Chancellor makes one wonder if Delhi’s education minister has any understanding of higher education. He writes, “Ongoing interviews for Assistant Professors in different colleges of DU have been catastrophic, reports say 70% ad-hoc teachers being displaced. We believe that ad hoc teachers should be absorbed in permanent recruitment.” 

It’s true that adhocism has been one of the biggest bane on the campus and it’s a bigger truth that the ad hoc appointments are made under the pressure of local teacher leaders of the colleges, academic excellence not being the sole criterion. Now that the permanent appointments are being made could wheat be allowed to continue with chaff and straw?

Stating the aforementioned, however, is not a complete endorsement of the unambiguity of the selection process and they being above suspicion. Regional and ideological parochialism has been rampant and in many a cases academic mediocrity has prevailed over excellence.

But unfortunately these issues have failed to resonate in the campaigns for the election to the two high academic bodies. DU’s biggest asset has been its pluralistic character. It has been able to carve a niche for itself at the top because of faculty’s knowledge and empowerment. This faculty has helped in drawing and implementing quality curriculum which in turn has increased the students’ capacity to meet the challenges.

In an address in 1939, DU legendary vice chancellor Sir Maurice Gwyer had said, “It (DU) should be a field of ambition, in which all classes, parties and creeds may labour together in a labour of love, working harmony for a common cause.” The problem at hand is that the common cause has got overtaken by sectional interests.

 

Gwyer had further prayed that the university as he envisioned would command the lively sympathy and assistance of the public. The current financial crisis on the campus is indicative of the loss of sympathy for hoary university, there could not be anything sadder for the campus which in the 100 years of its existence evolved as a national asset. 

 

(First published in The Morning Standard)  

 

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