January 21, 2013
Delhi University Teachers’ Association
Press Release: January 13, 2013
The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) is shocked by the callous show of ruthlessness, on the part of the University Administration, in attempting to forcibly evict a colleague suffering from severe orthopaedic disability, from the University accommodation that had earlier been provided to him in view of his disability.
The teacher in question, Dr. G N Saibaba, has been serving as an Assistant Professor of English in the university-maintained Rama Lal Anand College. Resulting from childhood polio, Dr. Saibaba’s 90% disability has bound him to a wheelchair. Yet, he is known throughout the university as a conscientious teacher and an intellectual voice of the marginalized sections. While he had been temporarily accommodated at the Warden’s Residence in Gwyer Hall (a premier PG hostel in DU) in April 2008, with the promise of a permanent accommodation in the future, the University has hitherto failed to deliver on its promise. Now, under the current VC led administration, the University has begun eviction proceedings against him under the draconian Public Premises Act of 1971, though Dr. Saibaba’s case does not attract this Act in any sense. The Notices served to Dr. Saibaba have asked him to vacate his premises within two weeks, failing which it intends to force him out onto the streets.
By forcefully vacating him from the present wheelchair friendly accommodation, the University administration will be going against its own initial decision to provide him such an accommodation, keeping in view to humanely and compassionately considering his severe disability as a special condition. The DUTA takes a strong exception to this hard-hearted and irresponsible gesture of the University administration and insists that it is obliged to provide Dr. Saibaba with suitable accommodation to ensure that his dignity and sense of security are not compromised. Till such an alternate accommodation is not provided the DUTA stands by Dr. Saibaba and appeals that he be not forcefully removed from his present place of stay.
The DUTA feels that the University must fulfill its social duty to the needy and honour the Person with Disabilities Act of 1995 which mandatorily requires it to offer a stable accommodation with wheelchair access to its employees like Dr. Saibaba who have severe disability. The failure to do so will not only be a clear violation of the provisions of this Act, but will also tarnish the image of the University as a disabled-friendly institution of higher learning that claims to guarantee equal opportunity. In this regard, the DUTA has appealed to the Vice Chancellor on humanitarian grounds and asked him to reconsider the eviction orders. In pledging its solidarity with Dr. Saibaba, the DUTA will appeal for relevant intervention at the highest places to prevent the University administration from victimizing Dr. Saibaba, and instead, to ensure his rehabilitation.
(Amar Deo Sharma)
The administration of the University of Delhi has decided to evict Dr. G N Saibaba, Assistant Professor of English, Ram Lal Anand College, from Warden House, Gwyer Hall, DU North Campus, where he and his family have been residing for the last five years. Dr. Saibaba was informed by the Estate Officer of Delhi University vide Orders dated 21.12.2012 and 26.12.2012 that the eviction proceedings against him have been initiated under Section 4 of the Public Premises (EUO) Act, 1971. In a subsequent meeting where Dr Saibaba called for a personal hearing with the said officer on 7.1.2013, Dr. Saibaba was further told that these proceedings have been completed, and that he would be evicted from Warden House, Gwyer Hall. As the situation stands now, Dr. Saibaba and his family are under the grave and imminent danger of being forcibly evicted by the University authorities and thrown out on to the streets in a highly arbitrary, insensitive and authoritarian manner.
In proceeding to throw Dr. Saibaba out of his present accommodation which the University itself once allotted to him, the Delhi University – proclaimed to be a premiere institution of higher studies in the country – is also throwing away its commitment and obligation to the established norms of affirmative action, social justice and human rights guaranteed by law, the Constitution and international Convention on Persons with Disabilities. The university community as well as the conscientious citizens are united in opposing and resisting this discriminatory action by the DU administration, and in doing so, they are also standing up for the rights of the differently-abled members of the university fraternity including the students, teachers and the non-teaching staff.
Dr. G N Saibaba is a disabled person with a severe orthopaedic disability (90%) caused by polio in childhood, making him totally wheelchair-bound since then. In 2003, he joined Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi as an Assistant Professor against a general category post, and has completed nine years of service. He suffered for five years without a suitable and wheelchair-friendly residential accommodation in the vicinity of DU South Campus, where his college is located. He had to shift house three times in the course of the first five years of service in order to find a suitable accommodation. Apart from being highly expensive, all these accommodations severely restricted his mobility and forced him to move with his hands and knees, effectively rendering him dysfunctional in such houses. In such disadvantageous circumstances, even preparation for lectures was a huge effort, let alone research work which was nearly impossible.
From the period of his appointment itself, Dr. Saibaba wrote to the principal of his college requesting a wheelchair-friendly ground floor residence. However, given the fact that Ram Lal Anand College did not have residential quarters and being unable to find a suitable private accommodation, the principal advised Dr. Saibaba to write to the then Vice-chancellor. Dr. Saibaba accordingly wrote to the Vice-chancellor acquainting him with the situation and requesting him to provide a ground floor accommodation on the South Campus within a kilometre of his college. The principal also strongly recommended his letter and wrote several letters to the Vice-chancellor. Finally such an accommodation was arranged by the University considering the special circumstances of Dr. Saibaba in April 2008.
Though the University administration at that time took up the grounds of his request seriously, it couldn’t find a suitable wheelchair-friendly ground floor accommodation on the South Campus at that time. In that situation, the then Vice-chancellor Professor Deepak Pental, advised Dr. Saibaba to take study leave from College and to complete his Ph.D. by shifting to Warden’s House, Gwyer Hall at North Campus. He assured Dr. Saibaba that soon an alternative and permanent accommodation would be arranged by the university. As a result of this understanding and because of the effective intervention of the Chairperson of Equal Opportunities Cell of Delhi University, Professor Ramakant Agnihotri, in April 2008 the University provided Dr. Saibaba a teaching staff quarter on the North Campus, his present residence at Gwyer Hall. Dr. Saibaba took study leave from college and shifted to the North Campus accommodation and began to work on his Ph D thesis, for which he was registered at the Department of English, University of Delhi.
There was a marked improvement in Dr. Saibaba’s wellbeing and academic performance after shifting to this disabled-friendly accommodation. For the first time he could concentrate fully on his Ph D research leading to its successful completion and the award of the Ph D degree, in addition to presenting a number of research papers at all-India and international seminars. During this period of less than three years, he could deliver invited lectures in the universities of London, Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, Atlanta, Athens and other institutions and have also managed to publish research papers. It is clear that his academic life could not have become so productive if he had not had the disabled friendly residential accommodation. Also for the first time, Dr. Saibaba had the opportunity to overcome the restrictions put by physical disability to live a life of dignity and to realise his intellectual potential and creativity.
The DU administration, however, has chosen to ignore these circumstances and the grounds for its own decision in favour of Dr. Saibaba in 2008 while allotting him the present wheelchair-friendly accommodation. It has invoked the provisions of Public Premises (EUO) Act, 1971 to order the eviction of Dr. Saibaba even though he has been regularly paying all the residential charges. In a highly prejudiced manner, the Provost of Gwyer Hall had intimidated Dr. Saibaba in the past by sending repeated letters threatening him with eviction, even going to the extent of once barging into his residence with dozens of men and at other times cutting the electricity supply for several days together.
The special circumstances under which Dr. Saibaba was allotted the present accommodation have not changed, as his physical disability remains the same at 90%. Nor has any alternative wheelchair-friendly accommodation been arranged by the university. In light of the above circumstances, the DU administration’s eviction notice to Dr. Saibaba is not only unjust, arbitrary and discriminatory, but is also patently illegal being violative of the provision of the Person with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. Section 66 of the above Act obligates the University to undertake the rehabilitation of persons with the disabilities which has been defined in Section 2 (a) (w) to mean as a process aimed at enabling persons with disabilities to reach and maintain their optimal physical, sensory, intellectual, psychiatric or social functional levels.
In addition, to throw out a severely disabled person without providing an alternative wheelchair-friendly accommodation goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India and the Fundamental Rights enshrined in its Articles 14, 16 and 21. This is also in flagrant violation of the Human Rights Act which clearly stipulates that life does not mean mere animal existence or a continuous drudgery though life but means a life with human dignity. With this, the DU administration has also undermined the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007, which makes it obligatory for signatory the countries to provide satisfactory rehabilitation and residential facility to persons with disability. The India government is a signatory to this Convention, and the Delhi University being a central government institution, cannot possibly disregard its commitment to the differently-abled citizens. The Supreme Court through various judgments has also laid down that the grievances and problems of persons with disabilities have to be considered by the courts and authorities with compassion and understanding. It has held that affirmative action on the part of the state and its institutions is expedient to provide the disabled persons with a level- playing- field so that they can lead a life with dignity. Keeping in view the above grounds, it is total injustice to a severely disabled teacher like Dr. Saibaba to provide a facility which is fundamental for his survival and to carry out his teaching and research and then to threaten to withdraw it arbitrarily just because the University has not made any efforts to arrange a suitable alternative accommodation.
This exposes the hollowness of the DU administration’s tall claims that it is sensitive to the special requirements of its differently-abled teachers and students on the campus. Indeed, for a long time hundreds of disabled teachers and students have been agitating for their rights to an accessible campus, study material and residential accommodation, which remain unfulfilled to this day. In its rush to convert DU into a ‘world-class’ university, the present administration is stamping underfoot the rights of its teachers, students and employees – particularly those who are socially, educationally and physically disadvantageous. The democratic and socially-sensitive ethos which are the hallmarks of an institution of higher learning – allowing everybody the opportunities of equal participation – have been brazenly undermined by the DU administration as is evident in its conduct towards Dr. G N Saibaba.
It will indeed be a sad day for this glorious University if we allow the DU administration to target a disabled wheelchair-bound teacher and accomplish its threat of forcible eviction. The teachers of Delhi University demand that instead of taking a narrow and highhanded approach, the University administration must channelize its efforts towards finding a suitable residential accommodation, and allow Dr. G. N. Saibaba to live in his present residence till that time (see the DUTA’s letter to the Vice-chancellor).