Days after UT Member of Parliament MP Kirron Kher said that ministry of human resource development (MHRD) had directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to release ₹140 crore one-time emergency grant to cash-strapped Panjab University (PU), the MHRD and the UGC have told the Punjab and Haryana high court that they were unaware of any such direction.
PU had delayed February salaries of faculty members by a week.
“There is nothing on record as of now. I could not speak to the minister (the MHRD minister). Officials are not aware of it,” additional solicitor general Satya Pal Jain told the high court bench of justice SS Saron and justice Darshan Singh during a resumed hearing on Wednesday in a suo motu petition initiated by the court on PU’s financial crisis.
“What transpired in the meeting between the MP and the minister, the officials are not aware as of now,” he added.
UGC too feigned ignorance about the development.
“We have received instructions to release Rs 21 crore (from the ministry) that will be done soon. We have no knowledge of Rs 140 crore grant to PU,” UGC’s counsel told the court.
Jain also told the court that the MHRD had asked the UGC to release Rs 21.73 crore to PU immediately and further asked it to examine the revised expenditure and revenue plan submitted by PU and recommend fund flow to the university.
The Punjab government that contributes Rs 20 crore annually to PU also said that it cannot increase the grant.
Rs 20 crore development fund not: PU tells court
PU’s counsel, senior advocate Girish Agnihotri told the court that a grant as development fund of Rs 20 crore recommended by Chandigarh administration for PU had been denied to the varsity, but Rs 2 crore under the same head had been given to 20 colleges in the city.
“UGC has decided to release Rs 21 crore but at the same time not giving us Rs 20 crore development fund. So, what did we get then. We are back, where we were,” the V-C said, complaining about shortage of funds.
He added that the MHRD and UGC should make their stand clear soon so that varsity can decide on fee hike, before its Students Handbook for 2017-18 is sent for publication next month.
Release Rs 21 crore immediately, HC to UGC
The court, while posting the matter for April 17, asked the UGC to immediately release Rs 21 crore after PU argued that it did not have money for payment of March 2017 salaries. The HC also observed as to when Punjab was not ready to increase the grant, then why can’t the varsity be made as Central one.
Jain, however, spelt out roadblocks in doing so submitting that dispute over Chandigarh between Punjab and Haryana was the biggest hurdle and the moment any step is taken on this issue would be politicised.
He also said that for this a large number of non-teaching posts will have to be scrapped. “The moment it is announced, there will be a strike by non-teaching staff. The decision is not an easy one to take,” he added.
MP sticks to her guns
When contacted MP Kirron Kher said she had been informed that the grant would be released by the MHRD minister Prakash Javadekar himself. “The grant will be released,” she said, refusing to be elaborate.
Why the crisis
• The UGC capped PU’s grant at Rs 176 crore in 20014-15
• The varsity submitted a revised requirement of Rs 277 crore (Rs 232 crore for 2016-17 plus shortfall of previous two years `16 crore for Rs 2014-15 and `28 crore for 2015-16).
• What transpired was that the UGC released its share of Rs 176 crore and had been directed by Punjab and Haryana high court to release and additional Rs 30 crore on January 19. This, it had failed to do and PU had moved court against the order.
• PU runs up a salary bill of Rs 32 crore a month