AS PANJAB University celebrated its 135th foundation day on Sunday, its claim for getting the heritage status tag could be strengthened but the committee drafting the proposal will have to work hard to convince the central government.
It has to draw a proposal claiming that PU is a “direct descendant” of the University of Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan. If traced from its inception in India after the Partition in 1947, the university will not even qualify to make that claim.
According to the 2018 guidelines on Special Scheme for Heritage Institutions by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the applicant university should be more than 75 years old on the date of application for the grant. Universities get Rs 10 crore if they get the heritage tag. However, sources said the heritage status was “only a deflection” to remove the spotlight from the demand for central status that has echoed on the campus for the past decade now.
While Vice-Chancellor Raj Kumar has pledged his full support to work for gaining the heritage status, he is said to have “refused pointblank” on the demand for central status. Sources said he maintained that there was no chance of a ‘no objection certificate’ from Punjab because it did not want its stake removed.
A member of committee that prepared the blueprint for the central status for PU said they gave a report on the pros and cons of getting central university status, but there were other issues such as the central government’s decision not to elevate any state university to a central university.
“The government has taken a policy stand on this, but we gave a couple of arguments in our favour. Our stand was that we’re an interstate university, so we don’t fall into that clause. Also, it will not be much of a leap for PU as we draw our finances from the central government,” said the member.
The member added that the other issue was to get the heritage status as there were some heritage institutions which were funded in the manner of a central university. “So, it was a roundabout way of getting central university status. But that is not as easy and it’s starting a new discourse altogether. Other older universities will also have to be studied such as University of Mumbai and University of Calcutta,” said the member, adding that there was also a narrative of being made Institute of National Importance.
According to sources, the national importance status also needed to be studied in detail as there was no other university in this list that could include defence organisations, museums or archives. As yet, it has not been studied if the university will benefit from national importance status, said sources, adding that heritage status was not the way forward for PU.
The panel that will look into drafting the heritage status proposal has not yet met. The Panjab University Teachers’ Association (PUTA) had assured the V-C of forming the panel. The central status for the university has remained one of the most important demands of the teachers’ body.
“Central status ensures regular grants from the Centre, salaries also come from there. We get equivalence in syllabi and academic schemes and policies,” said Prof Rajesh Gill, president, PUTA, explaining the “major attraction” behind the demand. She added that the teachers’ body had long struggled for the status for which an NoC was granted by the Badal government but eventually taken back.
However, sources said this was a “highly complex political issue” with Haryana also trying to get its share in PU. If Haryana became a part of PU, then it will also have a seat share in the governing bodies.