About the DUTA Strike
In conversation with Dr. Nidhi Kesari, Assistant Professor, SSCBS.
On November 4, 2020, the long-running issue over non-payment of salaries to teachers across 12 colleges affiliated to the University of Delhi finally saw a closure, as the Delhi High Court directed the Government to release salary funds to 4 of these colleges.
On September 16th, teachers from across these colleges went on a strike for 3 days to voice out their discontent amidst non-release of salary funds by the Delhi Government. Since then, many developments over the issue have taken place with the tussle between the colleges and the government becoming more pronounced.
The CBS Post approached Dr. Nidhi Kesari, Assistant Professor at Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies to get clarification on the issue and her perspective on it.
She narrates the issue as having started in May 2020, when the teachers didn’t receive their salaries for the first time. An official intimation was received saying that this was because the funds hadn’t been released by the government. The government claimed fraud and misappropriation of funds on the colleges’ part. A couple of audit procedures were conducted by the government given the same, yet the funds weren’t released.
On September 4, partial funds were made available to 6 out of the 12 colleges (which did not include SSCBS). However, Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia held a press conference soon after the strike, restating misappropriation of funds and how the FDs maintained by colleges were not being used to pay salaries to the employees.
“They should understand that these are savings of over 30 years and it’s a common practice,” Dr. Nidhi states, “those funds are used for different purposes and not for salary payments. Even if they have been in the past, the money has always been added back into the accounts once the grants get released by the Government. But this time the issue was different. It was not just about a delay in payments. The Principal was hesitant to use those funds because there was uncertainty on whether the government will even release any funds. Then it also becomes a manipulation of accounts when you use the funds of one account for a different purpose. Due permission is taken from the Governing Body even if this is done in some instance.”
She also feels that the actual problem lies in a war of agendas and politics, both on the Government’s part and that of the University’s. The brunt, however, is borne by the employees who have practically zero say in these administrative decisions.
“In all this, the person who is working for the college is facing extreme liquidity issues because even our savings cannot sustain us for months and years without getting paid. We are withdrawing from our investments, which is again costing us a lot.”, she says.
The Government later directed the colleges to pay salaries from the Student Societies’ Funds. This saw resistance from both, the Principals’ Association and Delhi University Student Union, which led to a court stay on the same.
“All parties here are perhaps correct in their way, including the college administrations and DUSU, but there is still no immediate resolution being brought forward (and) all this can hurt the loyalty of employees, some of whom are still travelling to the colleges daily despite finding it difficult to afford”, Dr. Nidhi implies, “… the integrity of a professional relationship also gets impacted, as the frustration level builds up.”
Hence, immediate relief for the employees is a must now, as it has been over 6 months since this issue surfaced. The contentions can then be resolved at a spread-out pace.
Post the collective strike, there were hunger strikes in a phased manner by teachers across colleges. Faculty from SSCBS went on a hunger strike on October 2, 2020.
The teachers had previously urged the students to be more proactive on their social media handles about this issue by interacting with the government authorities (be it through their handles on Twitter, Facebook or other media) and implore them to provide some immediate relief to the employees.
While she agrees that the non-payment of salaries was not a justifiable measure on government’s part, the college administration should work towards resolving any contention that the former has with regards to the issue. These colleges are, after all, run by the Government and only a mature and egoless outlook can help in its resolution.
On a hearing dated November 4, 2020, the court decided in favour of the Teachers’ Association:
… it is directed that without prejudice to the rights and contentions of the Delhi Government… and after adjusting the amounts already released in favour (of concerned) Colleges from April 2020 onwards, funds for two quarters of the Financial Year 2020-21 be released at par with the funds that were released in the corresponding two quarters of the financial year 2019-20 on or before 09.11.2020. Immediately on the said funds being received by the (concerned) Colleges, salaries of all the teaching/non-teaching staff of the (concerned) Colleges including the petitioners shall be released forthwith.
The CBS Post celebrates this much-awaited relief to the teachers and employees who have been selflessly contributing to the education of us, the students, whilst tackling issues of their basic rights and financial stability.