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Central Status for Panjab University
Punjab opposition baffles many
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
Strange and contradictory are the ways the state governments pursue their policies, especially those dealing with core subjects like education and healthcare.

The Punjab government, for example, wants more central universities in the state but has been opposing tooth and nail the idea of converting Panjab University (PU) into a central university. Reason: it may compromise the state’s claim over Chandigarh.

Sources in the Punjab government confirm that communication for setting new central university in the state has been received and the process to work out modalities set in motion.

It may be pertinent to mention here that last year the Prime Minister had announced setting up 30 new central universities in the country. Initial plans suggested that besides upgrading the PU to a central university, Punjab would get one more central university, probably in the Malwa belt.

But the opposition to the PU becoming a central university or a totally centrally funded university has been intriguing.

“There is no substance in arguments advanced by the Punjab government as the change in its status from inter-state body to a central university would in no way affect its claim over the capital built for the state of Punjab,” maintain leaders of the Punjab University Teachers Association (PUTA).

“Apprehensions expressed by the Punjab government are unfounded, without logic and least convincing in a democracy where the central government will never ever link status of the university to a territorial dispute. Many of us support inclusion of Chandigarh in Punjab. Both the Punjab government and the PU will be major beneficiaries if the Centre declares it a central university,” argue the PUTA leaders.

The PU has a unique status. Of its annual budget of over Rs 130 crore, nearly 40 to 45 per cent comes from its own resources. It gets an annual grant of Rs 38 crore from the Centre, besides Rs 16 crore from the Punjab government. Earlier, the central government used to give 8 per cent annual increase in its allocation to the varsity. But once the Punjab government froze its annual finance support at Rs 16 crore, the Centre, too, stopped releasing additional 8 per cent incremental funds.

Its chancellor continues to be the Vice-President of India. While other central universities like Aligarh, Banaras, Delhi, Tezpur, Nagaland and Jamia Millia are getting Rs 20 crore or more in the 10th Plan allocation. Compared to them, the PU was promised Rs 4.89 crore, of which it actually got only Rs 3.91 crore.

Established by an Act of Parliament after the Partition, it is one of four federal universities of the country. Since the Reorganisation Act of 1966 gave the PU a unique character of inter-state body, it had semi-federal status, with the chancellor being the Vice-President of the country. Now when Haryana has no more stakes in the university - neither any college affiliation nor any annual grants for the university - it is Punjab and the Centre who provide the funding in 60:40 ratio.

With sources of funding remaining limited or even shrinking, it finds itself in a poor fiscal health to sustain its ongoing programmes. Not only that, it’s old and aging buildings, built 50 years ago, are long overdue for repair and maintenance. Laboratories, too, need upgradation.

The only ray of hope was kindled when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the setting up new central universities. Being an alumnus of the university, PUTA initiated a signature campaign last year to persuade the Union Government to declare PU a central university.

Teachers want the Punjab government to review its decision and benefit from the central university scheme before it’s too late. Funds saved here could be utilised in other universities of Punjab.



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