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On a good day, they will manage to pack in a few minutes of rest between lectures in the staff room and the harried canteen boy would have served tea quick enough for them to make it to the next class without burning their tongues. With no demarcated physical space they can call their own, they engage in mortal combat with colleagues for precious locker space.Those at the bottom of the hierarchy don’t even dare stake a claim – they are “ad hocs” and their fate is to be washed away like rain in the monsoon semester or to crack like ice in the winter semester.One of the central pillars of this new ordinance is increase in direct teaching hours from 18 a week to 24, thus obliterating in one fell swoop the cautious gains of previous regulations (which had given a relief of four hours for associate professors and two hours for assistant professors); and more alarmingly, putting thousands of ad hoc teachers out of work.When the teachers bodies protested initially, the Human Resource Development ministry and UGC put out dissembling, misleading clarifications and modifications that included a friendly suggestion that we drop the research component of the points system for promotion.One of Karl Marx’s most prescient and profound observations was that capitalism would not rest easy until the managers had become as miserable as the workers.
This year, however, I have a welcome a break: I’m on a post-doctoral fellowship at a research institution.A few years ago, one came to me after a class and enquired with genuine curiosity and concern, “You are quite bright, why don’t you think of joining the IAS?” I should have known then that that tactless if heartfelt comment was the beginning of the slide.But the joke is clearly on us, since higher student intake has not been matched by a greater recruitment of faculty.
So classes have bloated to unmanageable proportions and quality has inevitably dropped.In the past few years, roll call has begun to take up to a quarter of class time as intake of students has swelled to accommodate the Other Backward Classes reservations policy.Many of us support reservations in a country where quality higher education is out of reach for a staggering majority of school graduates.But for all others and most of all for the floating population of ad hocs, each day is chaotic, exhausting and often humiliating.