Disabled Unfriendly

Delhi University out to evict a disabled professor from his quarters
It happens
RIGHT TO STAY: GN Saibaba, afflicted by polio, has been wheelchair-bound most of his life (Photo: RAUL IRANI)

A disabled English Literature professor is struggling to keep a roof over his head, with Delhi University (DU) trying its best to evict him from his quarters.

Affected by childhood polio, 45-year-old GN Saibaba has been confined to a wheelchair for the better part of his life. He was allotted a residence at Gwyer Hall, the oldest post-graduate men’s hostel in DU, on compassionate grounds in 2008. “The principal of my college (Ram Lal Anand) made a special request on my behalf and I was allotted this house. It was made clear to me that I could live here until they found me an alternative disabled-friendly accommodation,” he says.

However, on 26 December 2012, the Estate Officer of DU served him an eviction notice saying he had “unauthorisedly occupied” the premises and would be forcibly evicted if he did not vacate the house within a fortnight. The letter came as a shock to Saibaba, who says that Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh had a month earlier assured him of an alternative residence. Despite writing to the HRD ministry and the Equal Opportunities Cell (DU), the issue has not been resolved.

The eviction proceedings are taking place under the Public Premises Act of 1971, but in Saibaba’s case, it runs counter to the Persons with Disability Act of 1995, which specifies that rehabilitation is an important part of employing a differently abled person. The VC justifies his decision by not recognising Saibaba as a part of the faculty since he teaches at a college in South Delhi. Yet, the college is maintained by the university.

The VC’s office did not comment on the matter despite several calls and emails. According to Deputy Dean (PH category), Bipin Tiwari, “GN Saibaba was given the accommodation when he was pursuing his PhD and teaching till the time he completed his PhD. His stay had been extended so far, but now since the warden needs to be accommodated, the university can’t extend his stay.” Saibaba says two bigger flats lying vacant for two years can be used by the warden, if necessary.

The Delhi University Teacher’s Association says it is a “callous show of ruthlessness” on the part of the university. They have asked the VC to reconsider the eviction.