Balancing Interests: Two reasons to oppose the current modalities of reservation adopted by Delhi University
Hany Babu M.T.
Delhi University teachers are witnessing a peculiar phase. On the one hand, a large number of teachers who have been relegated to the status of “adhoc teachers” for years on end see some glimmer of hope for a much deserved and long awaited “permanent” status as the University and many of its colleges have started advertising for permanent posts after a long span. On the other hand, some groups of teachers from the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes have moved the High Court challenging the way in which the University and its colleges have adopted the 200 point post based recruitment roster (in the matter of Delhi University SC/ST/OBC Teachers Forum and another vs. University of Delhi and others (WP(C) 803 of 2014 at the High Court of Delhi)).
For a large number of onlookers, the scenario is a bit bewildering as the University, for the first time, seems to have made some positive steps towards the proper implementation of reservation as reflected by two factors: (i) the number of seats earmarked for the reserved categories has definitely gone up as reflected in the advertisements that have come out both for the departments and for the colleges in the university; and (ii) for the first time, reservation has been extended in the cadres of associate professor and professor for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. What, then, has driven the teachers from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes to court, people wonder.
One question that bothers many is this: when things seem to have taken a positive turn for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes, is it justifiable that a group of teachers have approached the High Court? Maybe they do have some grievance, but, then, doesn’t their moving the Court have the undesirable consequence that appointments may get stalled, in which case the interest of thousands of adhoc teachers will get affected. Some even go to the extent of accusing the teachers who have moved the Court of having ulterior motives, or of having been motivated by political factions that may have their own vested interest in stalling the appointments. Interestingly, a group who had always seemed to be unhappy with the reservation policy have also become quite active in hurling such accusations. On the other side, the groups pushing for speedy appointments are accused of being supporters of an administration that has shown scant regard for a dialogic engagement with teachers and students who, for quite justifiable reasons, have differed with and have opposed vehemently the views of the administrators. Even if we give a long rope, the fact that it is more or less the same groups that have supported all the reforms of the administration and that press for speedy appointments with the existing modalities begs for some explanation.
The supporters of reservation in Delhi University, thus, find themselves in a quandary as they have a double burden on their shoulders. They need to justify their action of moving the Court to a general public, who by and large have been indifferent (if not antipathetic) to reservation. More importantly, they need to convince the “adhoc teachers” that the damage that will be caused to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes if the University and its colleges proceed with the current recruitment drive is much graver than the hardship caused to the thousands of adhoc teachers if the appointments do get stalled because of the intervention of the Court.
For those who support reservation, two issues cannot be compromised: (i) reservation has to be implemented to the prescribed percentage, i.e. 15% for the Scheduled Castes, 7.5% for the Scheduled Tribes, and 27% for the Other Backward Classes, and (ii) reservation has to be implemented in all posts filled by direct recruitment (unless those posts are identified as being exempt from reservation).
In fact, the Supreme Court mandated the adoption of the 200 point post based roster precisely to ensure that reservation reaches (and does not exceed) the prescribed percentage. A corollary to the adoption of the 200 point roster is the clubbing together of the posts in the same cadre and maintaining a single reservation roster. Thus, from September 2013, each college is taken as a unit and all the teaching faculty in the college is adjusted on a single roster. Similarly, the departments of a University are together taken as one unit. Prior to this, department-wise rosters were maintained at the University, and in each college a subject-wise roster was maintained. This subject-wise and department-wise breaking up of the teaching faculty gave rise to small cadres. And small cadres, as can be seen amply from the Delhi University experience, leads to the shrinking of posts for the reserved categories. For instance, the Scheduled Castes have attained only about 10% even in colleges with the best record of implementation of reservation as opposed to their share of 15% of the posts even though reservation has been implemented for more than 15 years now. The situation is much worse for the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes. For instance in Sri Venkateswara College and in Maitreyi College, only one teacher has been appointed in the ST category although both the colleges have a faculty strength of about 100. The 200 point roster is supposed to remedy this and assure the attainment of the requisite percentage of reservation.
However, this was not clearly what the Executive Council of the University had in mind when, with an evil sleight of hand, they assured that the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes would not attain their legitimate percentage of reservation for decades to come. This has been done with a distortion of the guidelines issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (Government of India).
Unfortunately, the groups who are campaigning for speedy appointments with the existing norms are oblivious of the evil design of the administration, or have been mislead to believe the contrary, or have chosen to ignore the greater evil that is hidden behind the current modalities. Nothing else can explain the undated pamphlet that some of their representatives have come forward with, where the simplistic equation “14 point roster + backlog < 200 point roster” is given as a testament for the positive state of affairs as far as reservation is concerned. The obvious reference is to the cry for filling up the backlog vacancies, which is also one of the issues of contention in the Writ that has been filed in the High Court. What everyone is made to believe is that by the adoption of 200 point roster, the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes should have no more grievances, as they are going to get their legitimate share. But a close look at the modalities will make it amply clear that the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes are once again taken for a ride in the University as they are going to be deprived of their legitimate share for years to come. And the biggest failure of the groups that are campaigning against the modalities adopted by the Executive Council of the University on September 28, 2013 is that they have failed to highlight how big the loss is going to be for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes if recruitment is done as per the new norms.
The fact of the matter is as follows: by the adoption of the 200 point post-based reservation roster, the posts for the reserved categories and the unreserved categories are going to be fixed. For instance, the posts falling against the 7th, 15th, and 20th points in the roster are reserved for the Scheduled Castes; the posts falling against the 4th, 8th, 12th, and 16th for the Other Backward Classes; posts falling against 14th, 28th and 40th for the Scheduled Tribes and so on until 200 points are reached in the roster, by which time Scheduled Castes would have got 30 posts (i.e. 15% of 200), Scheduled Tribes 15 posts (i.e. 7.5% for 200), and the Other Backward Classes 54 posts (i.e. 27% of 200). When the 200 point roster is adopted, the existing appointees have been accommodated in the roster, and in this process, a number of posts that are earmarked for the reserved categories are occupied by general category appointees. For instance, in the departments 200 posts out of the total of 595 posts that the reserved categories are entitled to are currently occupied by general category appointees. The situation is no different in any of the colleges of the University.
As per the resolution of the Executive Council on 28 September, 2013, all the reserved category posts that are occupied by the general category candidates will be given to the reserved categories only when the current occupant vacates them. A reality check will tell us that the number of reserved category posts that are occupied by the general category in this manner is not negligible by any means. For instance, in the departments of the University, the Other Backward Classes are entitled to 214 posts in the cadre of Assistant Professor. However, as many as 83 posts are currently occupied by appointees from other categories, out of which 66 have been appointed since the year 2000. That is to say, the Other Backward Classes will get their share of 214 posts only when all these posts are vacated by the current occupant. Given that an appointee may occupy a post for as many as 30 to 40 years, this would mean that the Other Backward Classes will be able to get their entitlement of 214 posts only by the year 2040 or so. The situation is hardly different for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. As many as 70 posts out of their entitlement of 255 posts in the cadres of Associate Professor and Professor are currently occupied by general category appointees. The same situation holds in the colleges of the University. For instance, in Maitreyee College, in 16 posts earmarked for the reserved categories, general category appointments have been made since 2008, four of them as recent as in 2010 and 2011. This means that the reserved categories will be able to obtain their entitled share of posts only when these appointees vacate their posts, which could be as late as 2050 or so.
The design must be obvious to anyone who is not totally driven by ulterior motives. If the University carries on with the current policy, the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes are going to be deprived of their entitled share for the next 40 years to come. Or, in other words, the evil design of the Executive Council has assured that the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes will be deprived of the real fruits of the 200 point roster. What is given with one hand is, thus, taken away with the other. In the light of this, the campaign that “14 point roster + backlog < 200 point roster” can only be seen as arising out of sheer ignorance about the total picture or a willful desire to sabotage proper implementation of reservation in the University and its colleges.
Therefore, it must be clear to anyone who is committed to the attainment of the requisite percentage of reservation in the departments of the University and its colleges that the current modalities have to be challenged and opposed tooth and nail. Sealing the fate of reservation in this manner for decades to come is definitely a bigger loss than a possible delay of a few months in permanent appointments. In fact, as the High Court was not inclined to issue a stay order on the appointments, the question of delay hardly arises at all. If there is no delay caused by the Writ Petition, one fails to understand what is the cause of grievance for those who are agitating for speedy appointments? In the absence of any real grievance, one can only be reminded of the anti-Mandal agitation, which brought to the fore the real arrogance of the casteist urban uppercaste population.
Another reason to oppose the current round of recruitment is the denial of reservation for the Other Backward Classes in the cadres of Associate Professor and Professor. Strangely, many of those agitating for backlog are also unable to see the issue in proper perspective. Reservation in direct appointment for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and for the Other Backward Classes is provided on the basis of Article 16 (4) of the Constitution. As per Government policy only such posts that are identified as “scientific and technical” are exempt from the purview of reservation. The fact that reservation has been extended to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the cadres of Associate Professor and Professor makes it evident that these posts are not exempt from the purview of reservation. The mystery, then, is why have been the Other Backward Classes excluded in reservation to these cadres.
The reason given quite often is that the UGC Guidelines of 2006 talk only about reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the cadres of Associate Professor and Professor. But those who swear by the 2006 Guidelines forget two basic facts: (i) The UGC Guidelines neither lay down any law nor formulate any policy. In fact the very first paragraph of the 2006 Guidelines say that the mandate of the UGC is to strictly implement the instructions regarding the implementation of reservation policy of the Government. (ii) The 2006 Guidelines were issued at a time when UGC itself had not implemented 27% for the Other Backward Classes. In fact, in section (7) (a) of the document, the extent of reservation is defined as 15% for the Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for the Scheduled Tribes. The UGC gave instruction to the Central Universities to implement reservation for the Other Backward Classes only in 2007.
The parallels in the story of reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on the one hand, and the Other Backward Classes on the other hand are alarming, and they remind us how vehemently reservation policy is frustrated at every point. Take a look at this: Reservation policy has been in place in all the services of the state since the adoption of the Constitution. However, Central Universities like the Delhi University started implementing it only in 1996. Even at this stage, it was implemented only at the lowest cadre, namely that of lecturer. It required the 2006 guidelines from the UGC, where the Central Universities had to be reminded that reservation is applicable in all cadres of teaching (and non-teaching) posts. Reservation policy has been in place for the Other Backward Classes from 1993. However, Central Universities like Delhi University implemented it only in the non-teaching staff and not in the teaching posts. It required a letter from the UGC in the year 2007 for the Universities to start implementing reservation for Other Backward Classes in the teaching posts. Even at this stage, reservation was extended only to the lowest cadre, i.e. Assistant Professor.
Delhi University is now in a historical juncture as far as reservation policy is concerned. It is a plain fact that all the major political formations among the teachers and the students have failed the interests of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, be it in the recruitment of teaching and non-teaching staff or the admission of students. The sorry state of recruitment of teaching faculty has already been discussed above. Two instances regarding admission of students show how all the organizations have failed. Till the year 2013, the University of Delhi had a highly discriminatory admission policy for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe applicants, where they were denied basic facilities that were available to students from general categories. It was only through intervention of certain independent groups through a litigation in the Delhi High Court (Praveen & others Vs. University of Delhi and others, WP (C) No. 4390 of 2012) that the University was finally forced to offer to the students from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes all the facilities that were offered to the general category students. Similarly, after the implementation of 27% of seats in admission for the Other Backward Classes, thousands of seats that should have gone to them were illegally converted to general category seats year after year. Not a single mainstream student or teacher organization lifted a finger against it. It was again left to smaller groups to challenge both through litigation (DUREC & another vs. University of Delhi and another (WP(C) 11147 of 2009) and Tanvi Yadav vs. University of Delhi and others, (WP (C) No. 6776 of 2010)) and through various demonstrations and delegations to the Ministry of HRD. The matter of reservation in admission for the Other Backward Classes was only settled after the Supreme Court clarified the position in P.V. Indiresan vs. Union of India and others (CA No. 7084 of 2011).
Thus, we see that in most of the cases where reservation was at stake, neither the teachers body DUTA, nor the students body DUSU played any significant role. What makes this particular moment historic is that for the first time in its history, the teachers body DUTA was to take cognizance of the legitimate demand of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes. This sentiment was clear in the General Body of DUTA that was held on January 31, 2014 at Gate No. 1 of the University, where a large number of activists came forward and opposed the guidelines for the implementation of the 200 point roster that the Executive Council of the University formulated on September 28, 2013. The demand for extending reservation for the Other Backward Classes in the cadres of Associate Professor and Professor was also put forward in the said meeting.
It appeared as though the reserved categories have finally arrived in the mainstream political scene in the Delhi University, when the teacher body finally had to pay heed to the legitimate demands of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Other Backward Classes. In fact, the strength of the groups of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and Other Backward Class teachers had become evident in May 2013, when bowing down to their pressure during the struggle against FYUP, both the UGC and the Ministry of HRD sent directives to the University to implement the 200 point roster and to implement reservation in the cadres of Associate Professor and Professor. The order dated 3 September from the University refers to letter dated 9th May from UGC and 25th June from the MHRD. The dates of the letters from the MHRD and UGC are significant as it was in the months of April-May that the resistance against FYUP strengthened after it was opposed on the plank of social justice. In fact, in one of the meetings with the MHRD, the delegation was assured that the Ministry will “crack down” on the University for not implementing the UGC Guidelines of 2006.
However, what happened on February 28, 2014 in the Executive Committee meeting of DUTA has belied all hopes for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, when a large number of adhoc teachers came and forced the DUTA Executive to pass a resolution condemning the move of the groups that have approached the Court seeking rectification of the implementation of the 200 point roster. Thus, it has become clear that the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes cannot rely on any major groups if they need to get their legitimate due. They have to take their struggles forward by forming their own groups and make the mainstream groups take note of their demands.
Justice will be assured only if the scales are tilted towards groups that have been historically deprived, and not when it is swayed by the personal grievances of teachers awaiting permanent appointment. For once the grievance of the former group is addressed, it will be at most a matter of a few months delay before permanent appointments can take place, and all personal grievances will be redressed. But once permanent appointments are done without redressing the grievance of the former groups, it will take another couple of generations before the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes can get their legitimate representation in the teaching faculty of the University. There are, thus, two compelling reasons to oppose the current modality of implementation of roster system that the University has devised.
Hany Babu teaches in the Department of English, Delhi University, and is Secretary, Academic Forum for Social Justice. He can be contacted at: email@example.com