• #AdhocsSpeak: Chronicle from Delhi University

    Job/less: My Experiences as an Ad-hoc in Delhi University

    Sonali Dutta Roy

    October 18, 2018

    Ad-hoc appointments in Delhi University (DU) are always uncertain, some more than others. The general idea is that if one’s appointment is on a clear post against a permanent vacancy, the workload against which the candidate has been appointed normally sustains, and hence, they can continue working there. However, whether they want to retain the candidate or make fresh appointments depends on the discretion of the colleges. In most cases chances are  they would be retained. Or that’s what I thought.

    It’s only after I submitted my PhD dissertation in 2013 that I started pursuing ad-hoc jobs at colleges in DU, though I had cleared my NET as I decided against working during my last year of PhD. My assumption was that I’d feel more confident about myself once I have both NET and PhD. It has been five years since then and my DU experience so far has only left me more confused and uncertain about my career and life in general. Having worked at seven different colleges across ten semesters, I now realise that my association with DU has been weirdly unfortunate. Unfortunate because except on two occasions, I always found myself without a job at the start of every semester; and weird because even on the two occasions when I thought I had a job, I soon found out that I didn’t! When I used to laugh at my terminations back then, rarely did I think that this cycle will go on for so long. However, once that realisation sunk in, it was no longer funny.

    Once bitten; bitten twice and then bitten some more

    The college I joined in January 2014 had apparently appointed me on a clear post against a permanent vacancy; at least that’s what I was told by the teacher-in-charge (TIC) of my department. And because it was one of those colleges where the same ad-hoc faculty had been continuing forever, I thought that perhaps I would too (which was not to be, of course)! Turned out that according to my appointment letter, the four months or hundred and twenty days of my employment ended a day before the last working day of that semester. And despite all my meetings with the administration and the Principal, I was informed that there is no precedent of a one day extension, and that the decision has to go through the governing body, members of which weren’t going to meet any time soon. That automatically meant that even if I join another college on the first working day of the next session, there would be no summer salary for me. I felt sad, but by then, DU had advertised permanent vacancies across all departments in various colleges, so let’s say my heartbreak wasn’t too intense.

    Next year seemed marginally better. I joined another college around February; once again it was a clear post against a permanent vacancy. I had read that the post was disputed, and from what I knew, it was a reserved post that was converted into an unreserved one when permanent posts were being sanctioned, and some other department got the reserved post — something along those lines. Now, given my previous experience, I decided to find out if I am going to be thrown out again based on technicalities. My TIC however, dismissed all concerns and asked me to “chill”. A couple of other faculty members that I spoke with in the department said the same thing. I didn’t think things would go wrong this time since unlike the previous college, here I was employed till the last working day. But again, things did go wrong. When I was correcting papers during the summer break —somewhat relieved that next semester, I would not have to run from pillar to post in search of a job— the new TIC came up to me to ‘gently break the news’ that the post has been reconverted to its previous form. It was time for me to be kicked out again. But that wasn’t it; this story has yet another twist. Sometime later, the department had a vacancy against increased workload in the next semester, so I went for the interview again and joined, albeit not on the first working day.

    So I started working there in August or September of that year and by the end of the semester, despite all odds, my TIC informed me that she(?) had ‘managed to save’ my post, having done all the workload calculations. I was at home for the winter break and received my timetable through an email. I came back in January and joined on the first working day, got my appointment letter and started classes. But I was too happy, too soon. This time, I was terminated after a week because of some paper and/or students who were miscalculated or some such technicality yet again. I had worked as a guest lecturer that semester and was hired again as an ad-hoc against workload vacancy during the next semester. However, like everything else in this world, workloads too are uncertain, and I celebrated yet another new year, unemployed.

    Abrupt terminations yet again

    I had heard of bullying, nasty, non-cooperative TICs from friends, colleagues, and other people who have worked both at ad-hoc and permanent job positions in DU, but so far, mine were not and I used to congratulate myself that at least all my TICs have been really nice and cooperative. The January of 2017 changed that for me. A day or two before I returned from the winter break, I received a call from a college notifying me that they had a workload vacancy for an ad-hoc that semester, and asked me to join if I was interested (like I had so many choices!). I was a bit surprised because there was no interview, but apparently the call was based on a merit panel that they had prepared after the previous semester’s interviews (which the TIC claimed was valid for six months). I came and gave my joining letter to the TIC, and went with her to meet the Principal. From the weird conversation that followed between the two ladies at the Principal’s office, I gathered that my workload was handwritten in a document that was otherwise a print out and hence the Principal was not going to accept my joining. According to the TIC, it was a just a matter of time and mine was a genuine post.  Anyway, she told me to continue and make sure that I sign in the ad-hoc attendance register at the office every day. I should have taken the hint and run when they didn’t issue my appointment letter that week or month, but comments like,  “That’s how long paperwork takes here”; “last semester we got our appointment letters around November”, from fellow ad-hoc colleagues, signaled me to be patient.

    On a day-off in the first week of February, I got a call from my TIC. When I saw her name flashing on my screen, I went through a barrage of speculations. But nothing had prepared me for the way she conveyed what she conveyed. She asked me if I was in college and when I told her that it’s my day-off, she simply said, “Ab humey aapki zaroorat nahi hai (Your services are no longer required).” : and hung up.

    I was left wondering if I’ll get paid for the month that I worked and calculating whatever was left of my savings for my sustainability. The TIC later called me to submit the attendance and other formalities, so they could process my salary. It has been one and a half years and I am still waiting for that salary to be processed. One DUTA representative told me that there is nothing that can be done because the department did not get my workload sanctioned by the workload committee, and hence my appointment wasn’t officially approved.

    The aftermath of these repeated cycles of uncertainty

    Till 2016, things were difficult yet manageable for me. But being chucked out in the middle of a semester meant no prospects of interviews elsewhere. I worked as a guest lecturer later that semester and the next, before my mind and body finally gave in to stress, making way for repeated cycles of depression, anxiety, fear and physical ailments. If things go wrong once or twice, one can shrug it off and try to move on. But when it becomes a repeated pattern of life, it is difficult to see the point of doing anything, or even going out for that matter, because what’s the point, nothing works out anyway!

    So where does one go from here? I don’t know and I do not intend my story to either be a critique of or a solution for anything. I am just tired of explaining why I do not have a ‘regular’ ad-hoc job at DU yet, even after hanging around for so many years. May be good things do happen in DU, but I haven’t personally experienced them, just like I have never experienced the joy of getting a ‘summer salary’. My journey as an ad-hoc, for most parts, has been like being in a relationship that never gets better no matter how hard you try. And like every bad relationship, one must decide if it is worth the pain. As for me, I think five years is a long enough time to waste on uncertainties that induces so much stress and only adversely affects my mental and physical health. 

    Read more:

    #AdhocsSpeak: Chronicles from the North-East

    Sonali Dutta Roy is currently teaching at Ambedkar University Delhi as a visiting faculty.

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