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“Whose Dog Are We?”: A DU Teacher Explains The Biggest Problem Of Being Ad-Hoc

By Lalit Kumar:

I look at my designation written at the top of the left side of my salary slip each month which says ‘Assistant Professor’ with ‘ad hoc’ in parenthesis. However hard I try to turn a blind eye to the parenthesis part, I cannot, and I fail miserably.

Most of us agree that since antiquity there has been a power relation between teacher and students, which is based on mutual trust and respect. It can be seen as a precondition for the smooth functioning of a classroom with a semblance of order, not a source of exploitation and harassment of the latter. This kind of mutual trust and respect, it seems, have come to be increasingly eroded in recent times, which makes one wonder about the source of respect for the teacher. Is it her method of teaching and knowledge or the status of her designation?

I have remained under the illusion until very recently, that I get a princely sum each month for my services and the temporary nature of my employment as an assistant professor of English at a Delhi University college is a secret confined only to my salary slip and it hardly affects my academic career till the completion of my Ph.D. But recently, two incidents that happened at my workplace broke my slumber.

The first was a contemptuous public statement made by a student against a teacher that whatever she may do, the teacher being an ad hoc cannot take her to the principal and initiate any kind of disciplinary action against her. And the second, said with some respect, again by a student, was that college and the entire university were being run by only “ad hocs”. Of course, she was referring to their integrity, honesty and intellectual rigour as teachers. Students and their opinions and perceptions, which were never as vague and hazy about the nature of our employment as I initially thought they would be, come much later. The first and foremost problem that we encounter is how to deal with our ‘permanent’ colleagues, who are sharply divided into groups and demand our loyalty.

“Tories call me Whig, and Whigs a Tory,” is a line written by the eighteenth-century British poet Alexander Pope in his rendering of the first satire of ‘Imitations of Horace’, expressing his predicament over his political affiliation. This sentence often reverberates in my ears, especially when I sit in the staff room. One quick smile thrown at the adversary of your colleague can immediately make her suspicious of your loyalty.

The problem then is the problem of visibility, and I realised this when I ended up advising one of my ad hoc colleagues not to be seen too often with me in the staff room in front of those who had already established my identity as that of the ‘opposite camp’, forgetting that we had not come here to get an abducted Helen released, and I am not a Greek and you are no Trojan either. Eventually, everything boils down to one sentence, “Everyone loves a good ad hoc,” as a friend of mine, a Sainath fan, always puts it. Let everybody’s happiness continue, but show us some ways of being invisible, not officially, which we already are, but physically. Oh God, make me invisible! I have reconciled with the idea that once you are born in modern times you are bound to be humiliated, to witness your integrity attacked. Have you?

“I am his highness’s dog at Kew,
Pray tell me sir whose dog are you.”

Although Pope had composed these lines on a lighter note for the queen’s pug, it seems that the premodern and early modern need to have a strong patron continues in modern times as well. And it is as relevant for Delhi University ad hocs as for anyone else. The temporary teachers languishing at various colleges of Delhi University for years are being forced to ask this question: Whose dog are we; given their vulnerability, and a deeply divided nature of the teaching community.

It will be hard for them to have a life of dignity until they get a permanent job and the slow rate of permanent appointments is expedited. Without having a life of dignity, can one present oneself as a model for imitation before one’s students? And if not, is that job worth doing? Permanent appointments will be a major step towards restoring the dignity of the contractual teachers and maintaining and enhancing the high standards the university has always been known for. I would like to end with a cliché that a dissatisfied workforce can never be productive but who pays attention to clichés these days, let alone bureaucrats and administrators.

Featured image for representation only. Credit: Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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