Crisis in Academics- Teachers as Casual Laborers

Categories Opinion

Higher education system in India, especially since the past five years, is going through turbulent times. We would like our students to go for higher education, we are competing with China for producing the highest number of PhDs, we denounce the trend of brain drain, when our students go to foreign shores for further studies, but, when we cannot provide jobs for our existing PhDs, maybe there is something seriously wrong with our system.

I have friends who went for jobs outside Delhi, but I was more hopeful that since, we have so many universities in Delhi itself (DU, JNU, Jamia, Ambedkar, IGNOU, Indraprastha, SAU), why should one look elsewhere. It is going to be three years, and counting, since I got my PhD in Sociology, but still searching for that elusive stable job of a university teacher.

Every year, the number of new PhDs who join the pool of Adhocs and Guest Lecturers is scary. The number of jobs remain forever shrinking, while the number fighting over these jobs keeps on increasing with every semester, and with Social Sciences it is even worse. The new private universities, coming up within a hundred km radius all around Delhi, are mostly offering technical courses, and run universities as profit making bodies, often treating teachers worse than cattle.

The main universities of Delhi- DU, JNU, Jamia have all been running on Guest and Adhoc teachers. Every semester there are interviews, people get hired, and teach for a semester, have a high probability of getting hired back again, if-

a) they do their work quietly,
b) do not have any opinion on controversial matters,
c) do not protest against administrative policies,
d) do not have strong political leanings,
e) are most friendly with department Heads, do open chamchagiri ,
f)do not ask any questions, and
g) do not complain on social media sites like Facbook/ Twitter about their condition.

And, if a Guest/ Adhoc does not follow any of the above points, well, goodluck with the next job! There are too many scholars desperate to get that job, it provides stability, some money, and some respect for at least six months, but you will have to be on mute button constantly OR speak, and be thrown out!

Alternatively, you can also be a swinging monkey like me, you do random projects (at least they give some stable income for 8-9 months, if you get lucky, they can even stretch beyond a year), take whatever comes your way, go for every available job in town, even if the Requirement column says, graduate/ post graduate, you have a PhD, a higher degree, you can eat their job, you can always compromise on the respect part, of course! An odd office clerk may even shout at you, but that is part and parcel of being an out- of- stable- job PhD!!

I have friends, who have faced biased interviews, who even knew before the interview starts, who was going to get the job, sometimes I have had really good interviews and have not got the job, some of my friends have said, they have been rejected for ‘speaking too much’, sometimes I have had to answer for ‘why Muslims are not more loyal towards the Indian State’, ‘why do they have to stand out with their symbols of topi/ beard/ burqa’ (well, I am sure, nobody asks those questions to Sikhs!). All this for a job for six months.
The lucky ones who are not in academics, might wonder about the difference between the Guest and Adhoc teachers, not much both are non- permanent teachers, the difference is in the number of classes they teach, and the amount they receive as salary at the end of the month. Guest teachers do not get more than 25,000 and Adhocs get somewhere around 40,000 plus, as they take more classes, spend full day in the college. Some of my neighbors who are DU students feel that Adhoc teachers are better teachers than the Permanent teachers!

Recently, UGC has taken this shred of respect away as well from the non permanent teachers. From this semester onwards, there will not be any Adhocs, only Guest teachers. This ends any sort of class division, (if at all any), that existed between the non permanent teachers. As Faiz said, post 15th Aug. 1947,

Ye Daag Daag Ujala, ye Shab Gazeeda Seher

Wu Intizar tha Jiska, Yeh wu Seher tu Nahin

Ye Wo Seher tu Nahin Jiski Arzoo lay Kar

Chale` Tey Yaar Kay mil Jaigi Kahin Na kahin

I would just ask my friends, the non- permanent teachers, how much more are we all going to wait, nobody is going to fight for us, we will have to fight for ourselves..we will have to Speak up at some point. ..Bol ke lab azad hain tere…

  • Preethi Prasan

    I have worked only as a guest faculty and have never attended an interview…no no have not done my doctorate.M.Phil so far. I know of a friend who completed her Phd..and is trying to get a permanent employment at a university. I never have thought that there would exist so much politics in a teaching job. And like you said, if we follow the crowd and stay out of controversy one gets to stay. Sadly, this is the state of one of the most important professions.

  • Paresh

    Very well written !