THE FINANCIAL problem of Panjab University is chronic and the recent statement of Vice-Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover should be taken as a word of caution, maintain former V-Cs of the varsity.
V-C Grover had announced in the recent Senate meeting that the university would shut down after next semester if the government did not release funds.
“It is a chronic problem. Pehle bhi situation bahut kharab thi. Par manage ho jaata tha. We had implemented an annual 10 per cent fee hike for six years. Punjab government used to give only Rs 16 crore and Centre would release funds quarterly through UT Administration,” said Professor Emeritus K N Pathak, who remained PU V-C from 2000-2006. “Now it’s different, salaries have increased after the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission, but it has not been compensated by more funds. All woes will end, if it’s made a Central university.”
The university had been enforcing an annual fee hike of at least 10 per cent from 2000-2006. However, it was stopped for next six years during Prof R C Sobti’s tenure, when the share from the Punjab government increased from Rs 16 crore to Rs 19.26 crore.
Asserting that V-C Grover has just sounded a note of caution, Professor M M Puri, who headed the university from 1997-2000, insists PU was starved of funds during his tenure as well. “Punjab government refused to increase funds from Rs 16 crore. We went abroad, sought donations, but we could not meet recurring finances. PU is an inter-state body corporate. Once it’s made a Central university, situation will improve,” he said.
In the last six years from 2009-10, the expenditure under the non-plan budget has increased from Rs 180.24 crore to Rs 502.11 crore in 2016-17, resulting in a net deficit from Rs 51.85 crore to Rs 232.60 crore. The university had tried to increase income from Rs 113.73 crore to Rs 249.51 crore, but the deficit remains.
Professor Emeritus R P Bambah, who headed the university from 1985-1991, admits that there were financial problems during his tenure, but he received co-operation from the government and support from the then Chancellor, R Venkataraman.
“There has always been a financial problem. Earlier, the budget was smaller, now the figures are frightening. We cannot put the burden on students with fee hike. Why can’t the government spend 6 per cent of GDP on higher education? PU has potential and government must realise it,” he said.
Once among the oldest institutions of higher learning, PU reels under a total deficit of Rs 232.6 crore in the current financial year and Rs 45 crore from the last two financial years. Despite an annual increase in income by Rs 12.75 per cent since 2013-14 through fee hike, the university has not been able to meet its expenses.
In 2014-15, the net requirement from UGC was calculated at Rs 192.26 crore, but only Rs 176 crore was released by UGC, leading to a deficit of Rs 16.26 crore. In 2015-16, UGC did not enhance its contribution and annual maintenance deficit increased to Rs 201.84 crore, leading to an additional shortfall of Rs 28.86 crore in 2015-16. At present, the shortfall in maintenance deficit is Rs 232.6 crore, if Rs 20 crore from Punjab government is released.