A University Grants Commission probe has accused an Odisha-based higher education institute started by retired IAS officer and former MP of misusing over Rs. 25 cr funds awarded to it by the higher education regulator.
Based on the probe’s report, the UGC has decided to stop all future funding to the National Institute of Social Work and Social Sciences (NISWASS), founded by Radhakant Nayak, a former secretary in the union rural development ministry and a one-term Rajya Sabha Congress MP.
But the report of the enquiry committee – under former bureaucrat S Sathyam – has also raised hard questions about the UGC’s decision under its former chairman Sukhdeo Thorat to award NISWASS the Rs. 25 cr funds in the first place.
Launched in 1971, NISWASS has applied to the Centre for deemed university status, and states on its website that the tag would make it India’s “first Dalit University.”
NISWASS director general Bidyut Kumar Pramanik told HT the institute had provided the UGC the documents that the regulator had demanded – including utilization certificates detailing how it used the central funds – in March.
“We are hopeful to receive a favourable response from the UGC to our reply,” Pramanik said. Nayak is recovering from a surgery and could not speak.
But the UGC, government sources said, is unlikely to review its decision.
“There have been a number of irregularities in the utilization of funds by the institute as pointed out by the Sathyam Committee which was set up to enquire into the complaints against the organization,” the UGC concluded at its last meeting, according to the meeting minutes. “The Commission resolved that NISWASS be asked to submit the utilization certificates of the grants already given to it and that no further grant of any kind be given to NISWASS.”
The Sathyam panel has also concluded that NISWASS is ineligible for UGC funds – a finding that raises questions about the basis on which the country’s apex higher education regulator under Thorat awarded grants to the Odisha institute in the first place. This finding also makes it hard for the UGC to reverse its decision.