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After facing three weeks of severe backlash and multiple protests against its proposed fee hike, Panjab University finds a saviour in the Punjab Government. Cognizing the dwindling financial condition of Panjab University, Punjab Government finally intervenes.
The State Finance Minister of Punjab, Manpreet Badal has promised monetary help to Panjab University as soon as Punjab Government comes out with a white paper on the state’s finances. “First, we will release the white paper. Then whatever we can do, we will certainly do for PU,” he said.
This statement comes after Arun Kumar Grover, Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University, wrote to the Punjab Government, soliciting a meeting in order to address and discuss the current plight of the University. Acknowledging the letter, the State Finance Minister said that he would try to meet the Vice-Chancellor. He also expressed his grief at the recent violent episode that eventuated in the campus.
He lamented the fact that sufficient funds hadn’t been allotted to the University, and held the previous government (SAD-BJP), accountable for this. “The Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University is right that the Punjab Government should have provided more support,” he said. According to him, an amount of Rs 20 crore per annum had been allocated for Panjab University by the previous government. This meagre amount was frozen for several years, even though the government was supposed to bear 40 per cent of the University’s fiscal deficit.
He remarked, how, instead of spending money on something indispensable like education, money was spent on trivial things like memorials and pilgrimages. A hefty amount of Rs 2000 crore was spent on memorials and monuments alone. And another whopping amount of Rs 180 crore was spent on Tirath Yatras. This amount certainly looks gigantic when one compares it with the paltry 20 crore that was endowed to Panjab University. This mismanagement by SAD-BJP lead to the current inadequacy of funds that PU is facing.
Faced with adversity and unable to meet its exigencies, the Panjab University is now demanding a 12 per cent hike in apportionments from the state government in order to meet its ever-increasing expenditure. “We are demanding that you (Punjab Government) must increase the fund being allocated by 12 per cent from this year. Every year, expenditure on employees’ salary, DA allowances and other expenses has been rising,” PU Registrar Guljit Singh said. A total budget of Rs 500 crore and a fiscal deficit of Rs 250 crore have been extrapolated for the upcoming year (2017-18).
In order to grapple with the problem of insufficient funds, the Panjab University Senate hiked the fees for almost all courses last month. This move sparked anger among the students, and was met with outrage and clamour. Many Student Organisations came out in protest, and there was a huge outcry at the campus on 11th April, 2017. Violence erupted as the students clashed with police during the protest, and many of them were arrested or injured.
Leaders of various student organisations have vocalised their anger against this move. Amrita Dhawan, chief of National Students Union of India (NSUI), strongly condemned this move and said that it will be an encumbrance for poor students. She added that a deputation of students will meet Vice-President M Hamid Ansari. The Vice-President, who is also the Chancellor of Panjab University, will be enlightened with this situation.
“We will seek time from Vice-President and apprise him of the situation. Education should not be made a commodity,” she said, adding that the centre should step in and provide sufficient funds to the University.
In such a case, will Panjab University decrease the proposed hike? Or maybe, even withdraw it? These are some questions which remain unanswered.
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