Even though Panjab University was declared as the best global University in India by US News and World Reports, a Thomson Reuters-powered report, in 2016, the University has been facing a serious financial crisis for long now. A few reports regarding the matter did surface in September, but no one anticipated that the problem would intensify to the extent that there would be talks of shutting down the University.
PU’s Vice-Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover reportedly told Chandigarh Newsline, “For this financial year, we have a shortage of ₹101 crore. This is over and above ₹176 crore for which they have made an allocation for us. Even from this ₹176 crore, ₹44 crore is yet to be released. It is for the first time that money is being redeemed three months at a time. Three instalments have come and the fourth is yet to be received, Our projected expenses for this year are such that we need a grant from the Centre which is ₹277 crore.”
As a solution to this crisis, a fee hike was proposed by the VC. Students and various members of political parties have been protesting against this. The president of the Students for Society, Daman, spoke to Campus Watch and said, “It is time that the VC takes a stand against the commercialisation of education. Education must be viewed as a right and not as a commodity; every student irrespective of caste, class, religion and gender and must have the right to sit in the same class to gain knowledge. I oppose fee hike as I believe that rather than putting the pressure on students, the administration must oppose the relentless privatisation of education.”
Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognisance in this regard in September after the VC raised the issue of the financial crunch at a senate meeting in the same month. PU had submitted that the varsity had no money to pay salaries to the employees for the months of December, January, February and March. Following this, the High Court directed that the University Grants Commission, Ministry of Human Resource Development and PU hold a meeting to find a solution to the financial crisis. PU VC had said in a statement, “The major concern of the house should be that the University will shut down after next semester on January 1, 2017, if the government does not clear its revised non-plan budget.”
Amidst this chaos, a senior professor from the Economics department informed Campus Watch, “Only PU has not been given an increment in grants when all other universities have received 15% increase in their grants. The VC is right in raising concerns over the existence of the University, as there is no money available to the University for paying the salaries of the teachers, clerical staff, even the research projects and infrastructural development have come to a halt.” Proposing a solution to the problem, he said, “Centralisation of the University (making the PU a Central University) is one of the most viable solutions present, however, the politics in the state is not allowing this to happen.” Students and faculty of the University believe that if the University becomes central, the Centre will be responsible for the funding and the financial crunch would finally end for good.
We spoke to many students in PU about this matter. “In my opinion, PU is being discriminated against. From what we have got to know, no increment has been provided to PU against 15% to all other universities. Time and again PU has been facing this trouble and the students, as well as the teachers and employees, have been bearing the financial burden,” said Siya Minocha, a member of National Students Union of India.
A student from the Economics department told us, “There has been a shortage of professors in almost every department, no new facilities have been provided and even the infrastructure needs repair. VC talking about the shutting down of the University has left us all bewildered.”
Surya Sharma from PU’s Law Department expressed his frustration, “I feel that the university administration, UGC and the Centre are playing with the careers of thousands of students. No serious and appropriate measures seem to have been taken by any authority, be it at the Centre or in the University. Statements in the media are all they have done yet. The only solution being offered by the University is a fee hike. A proposal for fee hike by five to ten times is going to put the entire burden on the students.”
The burden now lies on the students who might have to submit higher fees from the next financial year. If this goes on, this prestigious institute will suffer; no new research projects might be undertaken and there might be no upgradation of infrastructure or facilities for a long time. It is sad to see that the institute which is celebrating that one of its alumnus is now the Chief Justice of India, is weeping for funds at the same time. However, even though there is no clarity on the fee hike or the increment, things are looking up since the University received a pending grant of ₹44 crore in the last week of December and the UGC has been directed to release ₹30.5 crore as well.