Cash-strapped Punjabi University has given a land worth Rs. 100-crore free of cost to the state government after taking it back from the Centre in 2006 citing space crunch.
The transfer of land will help the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fulfil an election promise of opening a model school for free education to meritorious students from poor families. "I fought long and hard with the central human resource department to get back the land for expansion. Now my work is undone," said SS Boparai, who was vice-chancellor in 2006.
The land was part of 15 acres that in 1986, the-then V-C, Bhagat Singh, had leased to the union HRD ministry for opening Northern Regional Language Centre (NRLC). In 2004, Boparai found that the NRLC had built on only 6 acres and used 2 acres for other purposes.
After he threatened to move court, the HRD ministry returned 6 acres that now go to the Punjab government. "It's a sad day for the university. It should reconsider its decision, since it hardly has any land left for expansion. Already, it runs a school on the campus, which the Punjab government can upgrade to its model school plan," said former V-C Boparai.
In 2006, Boparai had written to the Punjab government for the adjoining land and offered to compensate the farmers. Since the present decision has political overtones, the university authorities say "it's V-C's attempt to appease the government to get extension".
An asset worth Rs. 100 crore has been given away for free when the university requires land for building hostels. Nearly half of its students stay in paying guest accommodations because of inadequate number of rooms on the campus.
The Democratic Teachers Front (DTF) has charged V-C Jaspal Singh with misleading the syndicate over the issue of the transfer of land. "The V-C rushed the matter in the syndicate meeting of October 24 without circulating any agenda. It was undemocratic," said DTF convener Jaswinder Singh Brar.
In spite of several attempts to get his opinion, the V-C remained incommunicado.