With Punjabi University, in CM Amarinder Singh’s hometown Patiala, being failing to pay salaries for June till now, the state government agreed to help the university with a one-time bail out package of Rs 20 crore on Wednesday. The financial help was decided upon Wednesday during a meeting between the university authorities led by Vice Chancellor B S Ghuman and Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. But the authorities were asked to get their act together as the government would not be able to help with funds each time.
Sources said that after an audit report by Punjab Audit Department, it has come to light that the university was overstaffed and despite that it had recruited 600 more employees including sweepers and lift men during the last fiscal.
“They have more staff than Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. Still they went around recruiting more people,” a functionary told The Indian Express.
He said that while the university largely depends on students for its funds, the university had not declared the results of the students. “They were asked to find a way to declare the results of the students. Only then they would have been able to have new admissions and charge fee. But no effort was made. On the other hand, GNDU started its admissions after declaring intermediate results,” added the government functionary.
Also, the university had not rationalised the salary of its newly recruited teachers.
According to the government official, “While the state government has ruled that the basic salary is to be paid for three years to new recruitments but the university was paying Rs 44,000 per month instead of Rs 21,600. They have to do their cost cutting. For how long can the government keep helping the university if the money is to be wasted?”
The university has financial obligations to the tune of Rs 30 crore every month. The government chips in and extends a help of Rs 8.5 crore.
“This way we pay the university Rs 104 crore every year. But now, it is seeking an additional grant of Rs 144 crore. This is not possible. The university has to stand on its feet. The FM too has to express his helplessness at some point,” the functionary pointed out.
While the university is facing funds crunch, the staff and pensioners are up in arms.
Sham Singh, President of Punjabi University Pensioners Association said that they had received the pension for the month of May on July 2. “The pension for the month of June is still awaited. The salaries of the staff too have not been paid yet.”
He added that when the government had imposed curfew and lockdowns, the pensioners, including senior citizens and elderly had to sit on a dharma against the non-payment of pension during difficult Covid times. “When the advisory was for people like us to stay home confined, we had to struggle for our pension after having given our life to the university,” he said.
He added there were many Class IV retirees, who did not have money to even buy ration. “They were turned away by those distributing ration saying they were pensioners. This is what they did to us.” He said the Rs 20 crore grant was inadequate as the university needed Rs 29 crore to pay salaries as well as pension.
Later in the day, a government spokesperson said the Vice Chancellor has been asked to submit a detailed report with concrete measures/suggestions to reduce expenses to bring university out of the financial crises with the help of M S Narang, an ex-IAS, who has been appointed by the government as the Special Officer in the university to help the Vice Chancellor especially to improve the financial condition of the university.
This report should be tabled in the next meeting which would be held in the first week of August. To bring University financially back on track the University authorities should present a complete and self-explanatory road map. He was also asked to take concrete and decisive action on the report of the Auditor General of Punjab. It was also decided that further financial assistance to the university would be considered only in the case if the university brings improvement in the financial, academic and examination system including the rationalization of teaching and non-teaching staff.
The Vice Chancellor, Punjabi University, was also asked to convene a meeting of the Syndicate at the earliest to take a decision on all these issues. It was also directed that the university would immediately start admissions in the campus and affiliated colleges.
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