M A I N   N E W S

In Punjab, some varsities & colleges only on paper
Sumedha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
With nearly three weeks left for polling, the ruling SAD-BJP government in Punjab appears to be claiming credit for some public initiatives it never took.

If one goes by the recent advertisements that have appeared in the leading dallies, the state government claims to have set up four new universities and 17 new colleges in its five-year tenure. However, records of the University Grants Commission (UGC) reveal a contradictory picture.

No new state university has been set up in the state since 2006, say the records. Only 13 new colleges have opened so far and that too under the Union Government’s scheme for expansion of higher education.

Under this scheme, the UGC has so far established 374 colleges countrywide, including these 13 set up in the educationally backward districts of Mansa, Nawanshahr, Ferozepur, Amritsar, Sangrur, Gurdaspur, Muktsar, Moga, Faridkot, Bathinda, Fatehgarh, Sahib, Patiala and Kapurthala.

These 13 colleges are constituents of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjabi University, Patiala, and Panjab University, Chandigarh.

As per the scheme, the UGC provided Central assistance to the tune of one-third of the total capital cost with ceiling of Rs 2.67 crore per college. The balance, if any, was to be paid by the state government, besides the recurring costs (salaries and wages) of running these colleges.

Unfortunately, the state, which has been too quick to claim the credit, is yet to give its share of the recurring costs to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore per year to the colleges, which are already functional and are being run by the respective university funds.

According to senior officials of the Education Department, the sanction for salary component worth 75 lakh per college has been granted almost two months ago but they failed to explain the reason for delay in release of funds.

Interestingly, the UGC withdrew its approval and funds from two colleges, one at Guru Har Sahai and the other at Verka (Amritsar), as these colleges were built in the previous financial plan but the government had represented them as “new”.

The college at Guru Har Sahai is already operational and the Punjab Government has not given a single penny for it so far. This issue was raised in the last Senate meeting of the Panjab University where Vice Chancellor RC Sobti informed that the state government had verbally promised to ‘adopt’ the college if University Grants Commission funds didn’t come through.

However, nothing happened after that and the matter continues to hang fire.

When asked Punjab Education Minister Sewa Singh Sekwan failed to give the government’s side of story and evaded all queries on pretext of being busy with elections.

Education Secretary Husan Lal also refused to comment.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s media advisor Harcharan Bains too ducked the queries and passed the buck on to the Chief Minister’s press secretary, Opinder Singh Lamba.

Lamba claimed that apart from 13 colleges, the government had set up “four private universities” — Chitkara University, Banur, Guru Kaashi University, Talwandi Sabo, Dayanand Anglo Vedic University, Jalandhar and Central University, Bathinda.

And surprisingly, while the government is claiming credit for setting up the Chitkara and Guru Kaashi Universities, these campuses of these institutions were in fact built several years ago.

The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government, during its tenure, has just recognised these two institutions as universities.

Regarding the Dayanand Anglo Vedic University, the government did give the necessary approvals but the initiative is entirely of the DAV management.

“It’s our endeavour. We bought the land two years ago and the construction is being done with our own finances,” said Satish Sharma, Director colleges, DAV management.

The Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, was established through the Central Universities Act 2009 and is again the Union Government’s initiative. 





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