The Punjab and Haryana high court has observed that the University Grants Commission might ‘convert Panjab University into a resort’, if it (the UGC) was going to adopt different yardsticks to release funds to it than it does for other universities.
The bench of justice SS Saron and justice Darshan Singh was hearing PU’s petition against the UGC for not releasing Rs 30 crore grant to it despite the HC order of January 19.
PU is facing an ‘unprecedented’ fund crunch and paid February salaries to teachers only on Tuesday.
Panjab University has always functioned on a deficit budget (expenditure more than revenue), but before 2014, the UGC would ease the crunch with an ad hoc annual grant from its plan budget, apart from its regular annual funding of about Rs 170 crore to the university.
“For the Centre, Punjab, UT (Chandigarh) are not part of it. Be it airport (Chandigarh airport issue), colleges (affiliation-related issues) or now PU, they have different yardsticks for them and different for others,” the HC bench observed.
“Let it be closed as centre of learning… The students could be shifted to Punjabi University (Patiala) and GNDU(Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar)… ..UGC may convert it into a resort,” the bench added.
The observations came after V-C AK Grover informed the court that all other institutes were given 15% additional over their 2015-16 grant, except PU.
Previously, varsity counsel senior advocate Girish Agnihotri had told the court, “The future of 2.5 lakh students is at stake.”
At this, the HC rebuked the UGC for not complying with court direction and orally asked as to why the salaries of UGC officials should not be attached till the grant was released.
The UGC told the court that it had approached the Supreme Court against the January 19 order. At this, the HC bench observed that even a fresh direction could be challenged.
Counsel for Panjab University Teachers’ Association (PUTA) Karanbir Singh Khehar told the HC that the UGC was facing contempt as the appeal against the January 19 order was filed after the four weeks period to comply had expired.
Exam fee used to pay salaries
The bench also directed the varsity to release salaries using the exam fee and the varsity complied by evening.
Stop of ad hoc grant key cause of crisis
•Panjab University has always functioned on a deficit budget (expenditure more than revenue), but before 2014, the UGC would ease the crunch with an ad hoc annual grant from its plan budget, apart from its regular annual funding of about `170 crore to the university.
•Since this has stopped, the fund situation has become increasingly precarious. The university receives a fixed annual amount of Rs 20 crore from the Punjab government. The varsity generates about `200 crore annually from tuition fees, examination fees and property rentals.
•On Tuesday, the court was told that the total salary expenditure of university for the current year is estimated at Rs 306 crore, of which Rs 264 crore has been disbursed till February 2017.
•Last available figures show that 2015-16 ended with a deficit of Rs 41 crore even after receiving a partial grant worth Rs 26 crore on the last day of the fiscal 2015-16 on March 31.