In almost all states in our country, there are province wide separate university and college teachers’ associations. Besides these, almost all individual universities have their separate teachers’ organizations. West Bengal was an exception. There was a state wide joint organization of university and college teachers and also separate teachers’ organization in each university. There was a province wide separate organization for teachers of Government colleges in West Bengal. But there was no province wide organization only of the university teachers.

Many university teachers in West Bengal found this arrangement unsatisfactory. First, they felt that the joint organization of university and college teachers, because of its membership structure (about 96% of its members were college teachers naturally because the number of colleges were almost two orders of magnitude greater than the number of universities in this state) was not very sensitive to the specific problems of universities and university teachers. Secondly, there was an indirect political background to the existing state wide organization. When it was formed, it was decided that teachers of all political views would be accommodated in the organization but the office-bearers’ posts, in spite of being decided by elections, followed an unwritten code of apportioning them to particular political parties. This led to this association sometimes taking sides with political parties on various teachers’ issues which did not always serve the interest of education or the university teachers. In the opinion of many university teachers, the association should have declared itself apolitical. And finally and most importantly, there was a need of coordination between teachers of various universities on different issues specifically affecting the university teachers.

It is on this background that a convention of university teachers of this state was held on January 24, 2002 in Jadavpur University. More than 300 teachers attended the convention. After day long deliberations, it was decided that a state level university teachers’ organization would be formed. It will be a registered organization and completely apolitical. It would take up issues affecting higher education and legitimate interests of university teachers of the state. Its membership would be open to all full time teachers of the state universities. A member of this organization can also be a member of any other teachers’ association. This organization would not infringe on the existing separate teacher’s organizations in each university, but would coordinate its activities with them as much as practicable. The name of this organization would be “All Bengal University Teachers’ Association”, ABUTA for short. A first Executive Committee was formed at the convention. This committee was given the responsibility of drafting the Memorandum and Bye-Laws of the Association and obtaining its registration. It was also given the responsibility of running the organization till the registration was completed. It was expected that all the preliminary work would be completed within a two year period. The first Executive Committee fulfilled the task and the Association was finally registered in 2003-04, the first organizational election being held in 2004.