UGC faces severe criticism from DUTA for trying to bring academic activities under ESMA

New Delhi, October 21: University Grants Commission’s (UGC) move to constitute a working group to study the Delhi University Act, 1922 with a view to explore the possibility of changes is facing fierce resistance from the teachers of the University. Teachers believe that the move could dissolve the university’s institutional autonomy and hamper the democratic rights of its academic community.This despite MHRD clarification on the issue.

HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, however, clarigied that there was no such proposal to bring Delhi University under ESMA.

MHRD specific on ESMA

Teachers of Delhi University (DU) say that the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) has specifically requested the UGC committee to contemplate on bringing academic pursuits including teaching/learning/exams/evaluation under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).  The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) is viewing this as the violation of a teacher’s moral responsibility to nurture free thinking and promote logical questioning. They call it a vicious attack on the academic community’s intellectual autonomy.

A UGC order dated 12th September, 2018, directs the constitution of a committee comprising seven members to study the Delhi University Act with ‘the perspective of relevance and uniformity in today’s context…’

ESMA a draconian move

As per a statement from DUTA, the idea of bringing university teachers under ESMA is a draconian move. Teachers are the creators and disseminators of knowledge and therefore should not be viewed as mere service providers. They association views this move as a testimony to the government’s lack of confidence about other changes that cannot stand up to academic scrutiny.

This circular comes immediately after UGC’s directive to all central universities to adopt Central Civil Services (CSS) rules for teachers. The circular that was issued in May this year asked the universities to follow ‘Government of India rules/orders as applicable to Central Government Civilian employees’ for service matters.

The government is facing similar resistance regarding the CSS from Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA). JNUTA says that the move is being made to suppress the voices of dissent from JNU. They view it as the criminalization of the very duty that academicians have towards their students and the society as a whole. The CSS rules prohibits government servants from being a member of, or being otherwise associated, with any political party or any organisation that engages in politics.