Even though the student's protest against fee hike at Punjabi University has been quelled after turning violent briefly, it has raised larger questions about the acute financial crisis at university.
With no concrete financial assistance from the state government, and hardly any income generation, the cramped coffers of the university are the genesis of frequent protests.
Once completely dependent on the state for funds, the university now struggles to make timely payment of salaries and pensions and clearing dues of superannuated employees. State's share has come down from 80% to just 22% over time. Thus, the authorities argue, the university has no option but to raise fees every year. However, it has had to roll back hikes after protests of students.
In the ongoing financial year 2014-15, the expenditure has witnessed an increase of 34% but the income has gone up by a mere 6.5%. The last time the university had a surplus budget (by Rs 7.23 crore) was in 2011-2012. The 2013-2014 fiscal had Rs 63.37 deficit, and this year another Rs 93.99 crore was added. Hence, this time the budget reveals that against an expected income of Rs 280.44 crore, the university's projected expenditure has reached Rs 437.80 crore, with deficit at Rs 157 crore.
While expected income has increased by around Rs 17 crore from last year's Rs 263.15 crore, the expenditure has gone up by Rs 111.26 crore to Rs 437.8 crore. In the past three years, In fact, the expenditure has recorded an increase of Rs 173 crore in the past three years, almost doubling from the Rs 264 crore of 2011-12.
The annual grant provided by the Punjab government is expected to stay at last year's Rs 63 crore. Of this, in the current fiscal that ends in less than four months, only Rs 32 crore has been received. In 2012, the government provided a grant of Rs 82.4 crore in 2012 to the university.
Worse, the government has failed to provide funds for running nine constituent colleges, which have been putting an extra burden of Rs 20.17 crore on the university. While handing over the colleges' running to the university, the government had decided to give `1.5 crore per college to the varsity for running these colleges, but not a penny has been received till date.
The salary budget has been increasing by at least Rs 50 crore every year in case of teaching faculty and Rs 8-10 crore for non-teaching employees. Thus, as compared to Rs 118 crore to teaching faculty last year, the university is paying Rs 185 crore now. Plus, Rs 41.7 crore will be spent on salaries to non-teaching staff, up from Rs 31.80 crore of last year.
Dr Davinder Singh, registrar of the university, says the salary burden has been increasing due to increase in salary components, including dearness allowance (DA) and due increments. "We have written to the state government several times to increase their annual grant, but nothing has been done. So we are left with one option: increasing the fee. Yet, Punjabi University has the lowest fees as compared to other universities in the state," he explains.