THE state government has slammed the University of Mumbai for failing to spend a single rupee of the Rs 5 crore released by the Central government under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) — a scheme meant to improve higher education infrastructure. The lack of utilisation of funds has impacted the availability of the second instalment of the funds, a report by the state project director of RUSA has said.
The state project director’s year-wise grant release and expenditure report points to lack of seriousness and strategy at the Mumbai University. Another university in the state that had also failed to utilise a single rupee of the funds disbursed is Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University (BAMU), Aurangabad.
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Incidentally, Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, MU Vice-Chancellor, has recently announced a campaign — Friends of Mumbai University — with an aim to raise Rs 1,000 crore. Deshmukh had said entities such as the alumni association that wish to contribute would be able to make an endowment.
The MU’s poor utilisation of funds made available under the RUSA comes at a time when the university faces various issues from unsafe and broken compound walls on Kalina Campus to the need to revamp its examination department, etc.
The report also pointed out that at a time when state-run universities are complaining about paucity of funds in addressing infrastructure and student welfare issues, it has now emerged that nearly 60 per cent the central funds extended to nine state varsities in the last two years were not utilised.
Of Rs 45 crore released to nine state universities under the RUSA Scheme for 2015-16 and 2016-17, Rs 26.72 crore was untouched, said the report.
A senior official said, “Under the scheme, each of these universities had been disbursed grants of Rs 4,72,00,000 in the financial year 2015-16 and Rs 28,00,000 in 2016-17. Most of these funds were allocated for procurement of various kinds of equipment, software, books, e-books etc. Some portions of the funds were for upgrade and renovation of the existing infrastructure. While seven of the nine universities have shown varying degree of progress in their projects and utilisation of funds, two universities — MU and BAMU — have not utilised their funds till October 30, 2016.”
This however has impacted the states performance. “The state project directorate (SPD) has been following up rigourously with all the stakeholder institutions with numerous workshops and review meetings. The lack of utilisation has delayed and affected the release of second instalment of funds under this component,” said the official.
Meanwhile, Mumbai University Registrar M A Khan claimed that the varsity will now utilise the fund and has already sought extension for the same from the SPD RUSA.
“The projects for which funds were disbursed include procurement of high-end equipment and machinery such as scanners, computers etc. It also involved revamp and upgrade of auditoriums and theatres. These projects got delayed and hence funds could not be utilised. But we are now utilising them and an extension for same has been sought,” said Khan.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that MU has left 100 per cent of the disbursed fund untouched. It had also failed to spend even a single rupee of the Rs 13-crore released by the University Grants Commission under the General Development Assistance Scheme of the 12th Plan during 2012-15 period. This money stands lapsed now.
Sanjay Vairal, former member of MU’s senate, said, “There are number of projects which were announced during the tenure of the previous V-C. The new V-C, Deshmukh, does not seem interested in completing those. There are examples where funds get lapsed like that of RUSA, and officials then seek an extension. One such example is Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Research Centre — funds were sanctioned but project never started.”