The new DUTA leadership has to take a pledge before the voters to not belie their hope and not breach their trust writes, Nachiketa Singh

The ensuing Delhi University Teachers’ Association election is an important event, for not only the teachers of this premier University but for the university teachers across the country. DUTA leadership is considered to be a tried and tested, formidable force to reckon with when it comes to preserving and protecting the collective interest of the academia in the country.  DUTA provides not only leadership at the national level but also gives direction to teachers’ trade union activities by articulating their legitimate interest in particular and the future of higher education in general.

This time DUTA election is being held at a time when the pandemic has exacerbated the already existing deep malaise in the system and the problems of teachers in particular. The absence of offline teaching-learning processes for more than one year has created a huge void in the otherwise vibrant and politically surcharged atmosphere in the DU campus. The usual debates and heated arguments for and against issues are missing this time and staff rooms are not being swarmed by candidates with their supporters and leaflets, pamphlets strewn all over the place. Without teachers, staff rooms are wearing a deserted look and that is proving to be a  big spoiler. Canvassing and campaigning have turned into a total damp squib.

However, we are living in a digital world of information and technology that allows us to stay connected to issues and keep in touch with our leaders. Hence, the self-conscious and well-informed teaching community today has adapted itself to the changing scenario that is facilitated by social media platforms to bridge the gap between the stakeholders and the teachers’ groups contesting the election.
Issues and challenges before the teaching community are today a matter of grave concern. They not only pose a threat to the future of higher education in the country but also flag an existential crisis for teachers that is lurking on the distant horizon. A large number of teachers are facing survival dilemmas, for their livelihood is in danger. This has been effected by a series of policy assaults by successive regimes, irrespective of their ideological make-up. On top of that, the micro-level mismanagement and procedural delays for years together at the university level have created policy paralysis to compound the problem even further. Years of delays in promotions and recruitment of faculties across DU colleges and departments have rendered the entire system run on adhocism. This does not augur well for a premier educational institution like Delhi University. No wonder, the same has been scrambling for a space at the top in the national ranking framework and least said is better about international accreditation.

Therefore, the spirit of DUTA comradarie has to be revived in the university amongst teacher activists and the culture of protest needs to be revisited in order to make our voice heard more intently and more seriously. There is a need to engage with the university authority and administration in a more professional rather than emotional way, where passion runs high without much substance to convince the authorities. Gone are those days of indefinite strikes and bandhs. Squatting and fasting onto death have no traction in the new age democratic resistance movement.

In the digital world of information and technologically driven means of communication, the new leadership of DUTA needs to adopt innovative methods to resolve outstanding issues of teachers by engaging with both, the University administration and the central government. The NEP is a reality under implementation. However, not everything that it promises to deliver is desirable and feasible. Hence, there is a need to create a balancing act of accommodating the interests of the stakeholders on the one hand and accepting the unavoidable reforms that have a transformative prospect for higher education at large on the other. The moot question is that whether we will perennially remain trapped in the culture of protest or adopt an innovative and pragmatic approach to problem-solving and conflict resolution?

With a new Vice Chancellor in office, the new DUTA dispensation should bring in fresh perspectives and dynamism to its work culture and exhibit its seriousness to resolve issues with teacher centric and problem solving approach. It also has to take a pledge before the voters to not belie their hope and not breach their trust, which they are going to repose on them on 26th November 2021. If the leadership fails to deliver this time, then the day 26/11 will be once again sadly remembered as a black day in the history of DUTA, worse than what happened to Mumbai on the same day in 2008. Long live DUTA!

Nachiketa Singh
Associate Professor
SGTB Khalsa College
University of Delhi
Contact@ +91-9891329706 (M)

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