The Punjab government, led by a rather philanthropic chief minister, has decided to “help” private universities in the state develop the villages adopted by them.
Actually, it was supposed to be the other way round. When these private universities were being set up, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had imposed the condition that the university, once set up, would help develop villages around it. The spirit behind the condition—laid down for almost a dozen private universities—was that the universities should involve students and faculty in the social and economic development of adopted villages using their resources. The move intended to ensure that the universities involved themselves in the communities around them rather than become islands of intellect and scholarship.
The CM had also insisted that undertakings be taken from university managements that they would undertake social work around their campuses. At that stage, the universities had readily agreed to the condition and submitted undertakings to the department of higher education.
However, now the whole idea has turned on its head. During a meeting of the chief minister with vice-chancellors (V-Cs) of half a dozen private universities and some government universities on March 30, it was decided that the government would shell out Rs 10 crore for the development of villages adopted by these universities. While the move is welcome in case of cash-starved government universities, to facilitate private universities that apparently have no dearth of funds in keeping their promise defies logic.
It was decided in the meeting that the V-Cs, along with the deputy commissioners (DCs) concerned, will visit the adopted villages and gather information about their needs. The university will also prepare an estimate of the cost of the development works. The joint report of the DC and V-C will be sent to the department of rural development, which will then release funds to the DC for implementation of the works by the university.
Interestingly, even without the intervention of the university and its V-C, the process of a village getting funds entails the same process. A proposal prepared by the panchayat is handed over to the DC or rural development department for release of funds. Thus in a way, the university has been added as an additional stakeholder in a system already in place.
While 85 villages will be jointly adopted by government universities, 75 others are expected to be adopted by the private ones.
“The funds will not be released to the universities but to the DCs. At the most, the universities will be involved in the process of preparing lists of what needs to be done besides intervention at the time of executing works,” said higher education secretary Anurag Verma.