JNU Executive Council met on October 22
The government is planning to foist the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to stifle the voices of dissent rising from this prestigious university. The teachers are already up in arms against the move. The CCS Rules apply to the central government employees and their enforcement in the university would mean that the teachers won’t be allowed to say a word against government’s decisions and policies. This is bound to have a disastrous impact on the democratic ethos and environment of the university.
Government wants to crush dissent: Teachers’ association
The teachers say that throwing the rules pertaining to the central universities to the winds, the CCS Rules are being thrust on the teachers. Prof Surajit Mazumdar, member of the JNU Executive Council, said that once the rules are enforced, the teachers will neither be allowed to sit on strike nor be able to take part in any demonstration.
It is believed that, as the JNU teachers have always been stiffly opposing the government policies, especially the ones which adversely impact the educational, intellectual or academic freedom, the government wants to bring them under its thumb.
At the meeting of the Academic Council (AC) of JNU on 6 October 2018, a resolution was passed, saying that the CCS Rules will be made part of the university ordinance. The proposal was to be discussed at the meeting of the Executive Council on 22 October. The press release of the Executive Council said, “… the JNU Executive Council resolved to expedite the process of framing the conduct rules for teaching and non-teaching employees and the Vice Chancellor underlined the fact that a committee in charge of framing such rules had been set up. The Committee has been entrusted with the task of “framing regulations for conduct/disciplinary/service rules for teaching and non-teaching employees of the University for consideration of the Executive Council.” The VC has also confirmed that no CCS rules have been incorporated in JNU ordinances.” But the teachers have been protesting. The JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has said that the administration is trying to curb the rights of the teachers. Many members of the AC had opposed the resolution when it came up for the discussion at the meeting. Even then, it was passed, ignoring their objections. The JNUTA has levelled several allegations against the university administration.
The JNUTA has said that the imposition of CCS Rules on the teachers is tantamount to ending their role in nation-building. The government does not want the academicians to play any role in building a better society and those who do, can be branded as violators of the rules. It says that the administration wants to curb the right to express dissent.
The teachers said that the CCS Rules have no place in a university, which is an autonomous body. It was at the 147th meeting of the JNU AC that, on the pretext of CCS Rules, an attempt was made to enforce new “conduct” and “service” rules on the teachers. The teachers say that the CCS Rules were also enforced in Indian Institute of Mass Communication and the decision was widely criticized. Still, an attempt is being made to thrust them on JNU.
JNUTA secretary Sudhir Kumar said, “Under the University rules, a copy of the agenda has to be circulated among the members of the AC, 10 days prior to its meeting. But the copy of the agenda was sent to the members on 1 October, which was wrong. He alleged that office-bearers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) and many other members were not allowed to take part in the meeting. And when a few members present at the meeting oppose the proposal, they are ignored.”
JNU administration hits back
In response, the JNU administration has charged some members of the JNUTA of spreading misinformation about the AC’s nod to the ordinance for implementing CCS Rules in service matters. The administration said that the proposal was cleared at the meeting of the AC on 5 October and that was done in accordance with the letter received from the UGC on 1 May this year.
What happened at the meeting?
The teachers had demanded at the meeting that the issue should be studied closely and some rules should be deleted or amended. But that was not done. The JNUTA said that the CCS Rules are meant for the administrative staff of the government and enforcing them in the universities like the JNU would mean depriving the teachers of their right to intervene in educational and social issues. Universities create knowledge and the teachers learn from the experience they gain by their engagement with social issues.
The teachers say that the move is aimed at crushing resistance and dissent in JNU but the effort will not succeed. Prof Surajit Mazumdar, who teaches at the School of Social Sciences, said, “Under these rules, professors in economics can be punished for discussing economic policy and political scientists can be penalized for expressing their views on politics. The teachers will not be able to dwell on the environmental policies and the scientists will have to face the music if they will discuss the science policy of the government.”
And of course, it would be difficult for the teachers and scholars to write in any journal or magazine. If they write a critique of a policy or contend that something in it is wrong or irrelevant or if it says that some policy is entirely flawed, then it will attract penal provisions of the CCS Rules and it will be very easy to frame the academicians.
Administration says it is a rumour
Questions are bound to be raised on the CCS Rules. An office-bearer of the JNUTA said, “These kind of rules never existed in the JNU. There were no formal or written rules. This time, the AC changed the service conditions of the teachers, as per the seventh pay commission report under new UGC rules. But the 2018 UGC rules say nothing clearly about CCS Rules. The JNU only decided to implement one clause of the UGC rules, which it found in its interest.” The university rector, Chintamani Mahapatra, on the other hand, rubbished the claims of the teachers’ body. “These are just rumours. In 2011 also, the Executive Council had passed a resolution that in case of ambiguity in the service rules, the CCS Rules would apply.”
Teachers say that the “UGC rules protect intellectual discourse and civic rights.” They clearly state that the teachers should express their views freely and frankly in professional gatherings, meetings, seminars and conferences, which is essential for creation of knowledge.
What does the UGC order say?
Now, let us talk about the letter the UGC wrote to all universities, which the JNU administration took so seriously that it decided to implement it in an unseemly haste. The gist of the letter is that the employees and the teachers of central universities will be penalized if they make any statements against the government or join a protest demonstration. CCS Rules will apply to them and that will give the central government the power to suspend or dismiss the teachers and others who violate the rules. These rules will be implemented in all the institutions of higher learning receiving aid from the central government.
According to the letter, once the rules are implemented, the central government will have the right to prematurely retire non-performing teachers and employees. It is being said that besides central universities, institutions like the IIM and other central government-funded educational institutions, will also come within the ambit of the rules. Under the rules, issuing statements or taking part in a demonstration against the government is considered illegal. The working of the teachers and the employees would be reviewed from time to time. Those who are seriously ill could be given VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme).
Translation: Amrish; copy-editing: Lokesh
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