Given the credit for the Green Revolution through extensive research, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is now dependent upon grants from the central government, foreign organisations, societies and trusts to carry on research. The reason: Inadequate budgetary allocation by the state.
Even though budget for PAU has been increased in the last three years, it is not enough for the core activity of research as more than 85% of the amount goes into payment of salaries. Of the total allocation of `310.6 crore for 2014-15, no less than `279 crore will go into the pensions and salaries.
As such, grants from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) have proved to be a blessing for the university. Of the grant of `56.4 crore from the ICAR this year, 55% has been used for research while the remaining has been divided for renovations, equipment, construction and extension. Similarly, `21.9 crore given under the Competitive Grant Projects (CGP) scheme of the Union government too has helped the PAU in carrying on with research.
Vacancy scene, rising bar
Successive vice-chancellors have, however, not succeeded in filling posts upon the retirement of scientists. Now, the situation has reached a point at which the varsity authorities are forced to give additional charge to existing staff of scientists. No less than 1,050 posts of scientists are vacant.
A decade ago, PAU was struggling to pay employees and pensioners, and agitations by retirees became a common sight. In 2011, as pensioners staged a protest outside the V-C office for 76 days, the university's annual budget was increased from `183 crore to `270 crore in 2011-12.
That was not enough. Another `30 crore was added. Then, another `10 crore. Yest, dues of pensioners have not been paid.
Pensioners say they have not been getting old-age hike of 5% every five years, while the DA installment too hasn't been given since 2012.
V-C BS Dhillon still expressed satisfaction over the budgetary allocation by the state to the varsity: "The financial health of the varsity has improved over the last three years and I am hopeful of more. We have requested for an increase of `50 crore in the next financial year, 2015-16, and I have had a very convincing meeting with the finance minister." He also said that "around 40" scientists would be recruited in the next academic session. "That will give an impetus to academics as well as research."
Renowned scientist MS Kang, a former V-C of the PAU, opined that, for research, it was a must to allocate a stipulated amount to every scientist. "At PAU, the research directorate is dependent on funds and grants coming through various projects of the ICAR, other agencies or universities. The government should give every scientist some seed money to research to get good results," he said.
Meanwhile, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu had a more radical suggestion. "Stagnation defines the working at PAU as there has been no new research or significant release of crop varieties for many years. It is in the best interest of research and employees to hand over the PAU to the Union government," said the Congress leader.