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As Panjab University continues to reel under a financial crisis, the first instalment of its grant from the Centre is yet to be received from the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) despite assurances last week.
During a meeting of the MHRD officials with PU Vice-Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover on October 21, it was said that the process for release of funds had been initiated, and the varsity would receive 25 per cent (about Rs 50 crore) of the sanctioned amount shortly. MHRD had stalled grants to PU following a complaint by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad alleging misappropriation of funds in hostels.
Mulling over the consequences due to unavailability of funds, members of the Panjab University Teachers’ Association (PUTA) have said that if needed, the university employees would sit on a protest, demanding release of grants from the Central government. The university teachers have also decided to seek help from the city’s politicians, and PUTA president Professor Akshaya Kumar is scheduled to meet MP Kirron Kher in mid-November.
Sources of revenue generation
Panjab University receives Rs 20 crore from the Punjab government each year, and around Rs 200 crore is provided to the varsity by the Central government. Each year, there is an increment of 8 per cent in the amount of grants provided by the Centre. Last year, the university had received roughly Rs 178 crore, and this year, the university is expecting about Rs 194 crore from the Central government.
In addition to this, the university generates Rs 200 crore annually through self-sustaining means of revenue generation. Out of this amount, the majority is collected through fees, and the remaining is collected through rentals for shops, advertisements and other commercial means.
For the current academic year, the varsity had approved a budget of Rs 478 crore. Says Professor Akshaya Kumar, “Even if we receive the said grants from the Centre, there will be a deficit of more than Rs 50 crore this year. The university will have to generate this amount through self-sustaining ways.” For now, with grants still not released by the Central government, the university’s current deficit is about Rs 260 crore.
Impact of financial crunch
Due to the long overdue release of funds from the Centre, the university has been struggling to continue various activities. Reimbursement for medical bills has been stopped, and the university has not even paid DAs to its employees in the last few months. Further, payment of external examiners has been stalled, and the employees have also not received the leave travel concessions. A number of other welfare and research-related initiatives have been kept in abeyance due to unavailability of funds.
Earlier this year, Rs 25 crore was diverted from the university’s research grants in order to pay the employee salaries.
Normally, the payment of salaries is done through the non-planned expenditure, but this year an amount of Rs 40 crore has already been diverted from the planned expenditure for the payment of salaries. Even in the university’s pension fund, there is a liability of another Rs 40 crore, and money for provident fund has also not been deposited for this year. In all, a total of Rs 167 crore has been diverted from various heads in the last few months to pay the salaries.
Suggestions from PU think tank
A think tank has been constituted to offer long-term solutions to the varsity’s recurring financial woes. Their proposals are:
> Fee hike in certain courses
> Collection of a fixed amount of Rs 100 per month from the university employees, in order to create a development fund
> Opening more shops inside campus
> Having self-financing model for hostels
> Allowing hoardings and advertisements on the campus
> Converting PU guesthouse in Shimla into hotel
> Generation of solar power to cut electricity bills