DUTA-FEDCUTA (Delhi University Teachers Association-Federation of Central Universities Teachers Associations) called for a protest march from Mandi House to Parliament in New Delhi, on March 28. Tens of thousands of students and teachers took part in the march. Almost all colleges and departments of Delhi University had mobilized teachers and students for the protest march. Teachers and students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Milia Islamia University, Ambedkar University and Aligarh Muslim University were also present in large numbers. Students and youth organisations, AISF, SFI, AISA, CYSS, KYS, etc. enthusiastically participated. Slogans were raised again and again, denouncing the so-called Graded Autonomy Scheme announced by the government as a step towards increasing privatisation of higher education. “Stop commercialisation of education!”, “Higher education is our right!”, “We ask for our rights, not for your favours!”, “Stop playing with the future of our youth!”, etc. were some of the slogans written on the placards that the protestors were carrying.
Ms. Sucharita addressing the rally on behalf of Lok Raj Sangathan
Leaders of DUTA-FEDCUTA and other activist-leaders, including General Secretary of AITUC, Comrade Amarjit Kaur, former DUTA President A.N.Mishra, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Shri Manish Sisodia, leaders of teachers associations of several colleges, Sucharita of Lok Raj Sangathan, and others addressed the protesting teachers and students at Mandi House.
The massive demonstration through the streets of New Delhi attracted the attention of passers-by to the concerns of the teachers and students. At Parliament, a huge stage had been set up, decorated with banners highlighting their demands. Leaders of various political parties and youth organisations called upon the teachers and students to strengthen their unity and take the struggle forward.
Speakers addressing the rally hailed the united opposition of the teachers and students to the government’s recently announced Graded Autonomy Scheme, according to which it will grant autonomy to 60 institutions of higher education, including 5 central universities, 21 state universities, 24 deemed universities and 2 private universities, as well as 8 colleges. This will be implemented through the University Grant Commission (UGC). They highlighted the protest actions of teachers and students of Delhi University and JNU in the past weeks, condemning it as a clear attempt to push further in the direction of privatization of higher education.
DUTA leaders spoke of the week-long protest on the campus. Teacher activists from various colleges described similar protest actions by students and teachers in the different colleges of Delhi University. Speakers condemned the brutal police attack on the march to Parliament by JNU teachers and students on March 23. Strike by the JNUTA continued on the university campus till March 28, they announced. Protest actions were also reported from other university campuses.
Addressing the protestors at Parliament, the speakers drew attention to the fact that in the name of ‘autonomy’, the government is drastically cutting down the spending on higher education. The government is withdrawing from its responsibility towards the youth of our country. University managements and administrations are being given a free hand to raise fees and launch private self-financing courses, off-campus centres, etc., which will charge exorbitant fees, they explained. Various college teachers spoke of how, according to this scheme, institutions are expected to raise 30 per cent of additional expenses on revision of salaries due to the staff under the 7th Pay Commission Revision. This will be done by raising the fees of the students, making higher education out of reach, for vast majority of youth. Rules and regulations regarding quality of education and adequacy of education infrastructure will also be relaxed, they pointed out.
The speakers also drew attention to other features of the Graded Autonomy Scheme. Under the new policy, these autonomous institutions would have to reserve 20 per cent of the faculty positions for foreign teachers and 20 per cent student seats for foreign students. The foreign teachers will certainly command much higher salaries, while the foreign students can be charged much higher fees. This is being done at a time when the majority of the universities are facing acute shortage of faculty positions and appointments of teachers are not being held for months and even years. Ad-hoc teachers have to teach in the face of terrible job insecurity and other oppressive conditions. In many colleges, teachers are not even being paid their salaries regularly, causing them enormous difficulty.
Democratic functioning of the universities and colleges will be affected, they said. The existing academic and student councils, in which teachers and students could participate and voice their grievances and put forward their demands, will henceforth be replaced by bodies completely controlled by the authorities.
The DUTA issued a press statement on March 28, which is being posted.