There are 41 housekeeping workers at Ambedkar University, Delhi, out of which 8 are women. Their shift starts at 7 in the morning and goes on till 4 in the evening. Between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. they clean the offices so that the teachers and administration can begin work on time. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. they clean the galleries, toilets, roads, etc. The work involves dusting tables and chairs; sweeping; doing poncha; emptying the toilet dustbin; cleaning the canteen area with acid and scrubbing machines. 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. is lunch, after which they clean all the dirt and mess that collects at the end of a working day at the university. The toilet and canteen are washed thoroughly first thing in the morning but has to be cleaned at least 5-6 more times during the course of the day as the students tend to make a mess of it without a care. Sometimes they are asked to come and work on Sundays as well without any bonus payment for the extra work. But the 8 women housekeeping workers are exempt from this.
Mohan and I have been talking about our course and the problems that we face quite regularly. Quite often we have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that the two of us do not always face the same issues and challenges.
We have four courses and each demands at least 2-3 assignments in the course of the semester. Some but not all ask for exams. Some make class participation part of the assessment as well. Some teachers really expect us to work a lot: weekly thought pieces, 1-2 readings for each class and active participation in classes while others just expect us to submit good assignments and come for a few classes. But there is a difference between what they expect and what they wish and desire. Teachers desire active and participating students, this means that the students must read regularly (2-3 hours a day), and be confident of speaking in the class. Some teachers also expect us to listen to them silently without disturbing them and not get distracted by phones and each other. So along with class what the teacher desires is around 35-37 hours of work a week. They probably expect one to do around 20-25 hours.
Being a teacher, particularly at a place like Ambedkar University is one of the most stressful experiences that I have so far gone through. Most teachers at Ambedkar are there, because they love what they are doing, which makes it more difficult. We find it very difficult to see it as a professional commitment that can be switched off at a particular time of the day. It is a matter of feeling responsible for students, wanting to do a good job. In a standard university system, responsibility of what teachers teach does not lie with the teachers, only of how it is taught. This can be very liberating, because the fault of a student not learning may lie somewhere else. In AUD the entire responsibility lies with the teacher who is forever struggling with the idea of what is best for the student versus what can realistically be taught in a semester. For young teachers who have never taught at undergraduate level at colleges, it can lead to a wide gap between the expectations of the teacher and the capabilities of the students. Most of us do try to translate our research into classes, which is very good for us, but not necessarily for the students.
He is 45 years old and educated upto class 8th. His employer is Rakshak, a security agency. His wages depend on the tenders that the university auctions out to contracting agencies. The terms of the tender may change from year to year. He works 8-hour shifts from 6am till 2pm, and reaches home at 3:30 and earns Rs. 6500-7000 depending on whether he takes on extra shifts. Before this he was working in Delhi University, earning 7000, but he also had PF and ESI. For this he had to work 12-hour shifts. The job ended when the new tender required a complete overhaul of guards and their replacement. He recalled that while he was in DU, the administration prohibited guards from sitting while on the job and removed all the chairs. We spoke to Manoj a few days after the teachers at AUD had held a public meeting addressing the problems they face with contractualization. When asked about the teachers’ struggle, he said that he didn’t know what they were doing. He said it would be good if they did talk to students, teachers and security guards too because the problems do not seem very different, especially that of contractualization. He said that all the support staff were temporary and had no security or benefits whatsoever. They are also hired by the university but through a contracting agency. So although the problems they face are faced inside the university, formally they can’t make complaints to the university. He thought that students, teachers and the support staff should try to communicate and struggle together. But he added that it is very difficult since there are “people you cannot trust because they will report to the malik”. He also added that BJP and Congress are really the same. He had heard Modi say- anyone, even a chaiwala, can be prime minister, but he feels that Modi is not really doing anything either. He can do whatever he wants since he has no opposition. He is a good speaker but all his talk doesn’t change things for the poor, who are still poor even after he has been in power for so long
These are two reports from teachers at AUD, recounting the experience of the teaching process in terms of classroom work, administrative work and the gendered nature of the job as well as the intervention of the AUD Faculty Association (AUDFA).
WORKING IN AUD
1. Sumedha is a permanent teacher who has been in AUD for over 4 years, having taught for 5 years before that, in a DU college and a university. Unlike DU, the department has to teach from BA to PHD. Harish has been an Associate Professor here for a number of years, having taught elsewhere as well. While in other universities the work load is 8 credits per year and 4 per semester, in AUD they are expected to teach two four-credit courses each semester.
In October 2014, tenants in Christian Colony in DU’s North Campus refused to pay rent until landlords agree to give rent receipts. They said that this would prove how rents varied in the same are. But when it was underway it was clear the strike wasn’t just about costs.
The colony has around 150 buildings controlled/owned by a handful of builders. Rooms are 6×6 feet to 6×8 feet. No light. Little air. Very few have attached bathrooms; usually 10 rooms share one bathroom. The water is ‘toxic’. Electricity bills are always much higher than they should be because of faulty meters. The rent: Rs. 2000-4500. There aren’t any rent agreements and older tenants generally pay less.