Stakeholders divided over central status for Panjab University
Punjab and Haryana high court’s directions to the central government to consider conversion of Panjab University (PU) into a central university has evoked mixed reactions from various stakeholders related to the university.
While majority of the varsity teachers, who have been pushing for adoption of Central Service Rules, as done for Chandigarh employees, are in favour of central status for PU, the non-teaching staff and some student bodies have opposed it.
The court’s directions came on a plea from a retired PU teacher, Sangeeta Bhalla, who superannuated at the age of 60 and had sought extension of service till 65 years.
Panjab University Teachers Association (PUTA) president Mritunjay Kumar said they were awaiting the outcome of HC’s direction, as PUTA’s focus was also on bringing PU teachers under Central Service Rules, which were already applicable for teachers at UT colleges.
With Punjab yet to implement the recommendations of the UGC Seventh Pay Commission for revised pay scales, teachers have been waiting for pay hike since 2018.
PU senator Priyatosh Sharma said, “Central university status will make PU more competitive in terms of academics. It will help students procure more grants and fellowships, and add seats for OBC students, as available at central universities.”
Meanwhile, the non-teaching staff of PU has started a signature campaign to voice their opposition. The non-teaching staff have raised apprehensions that if the varsity is converted into a central university, they will lose benefits in terms of leaves, grade pay of superintendents, retirement age of ‘C’ class employees and employment on compassionate grounds.
President of Panjab University Non-Teaching Employees Federation (PUNTEF), Honey Thakur said, “Almost all non-teaching staff members are opposed to the move and around 1,500 regular staffers have given their signatures. We will write to the PU chancellor and Punjab CM as well.”
A few student bodies, including Students For Society (SFS), National Students Union of India (NSUI) and Punjab Students Union (PSU-Lalkaar) also opposed the move. NSUI activists on Thursday met the advocate general of Punjab and submitted a memorandum, urging that PU not be converted into a central university. “PU is a symbol of the rich and varied culture of Punjab, and any move to transfer its jurisdiction to the Centre will be against the interests of the state and its people,” said Gurjot Singh Sandhu, national general secretary, NSUI.
Through a statement, the SFS said the varsity’s governing structure will change if it was converted. “Changing PU’s status also undermines Punjab’s geographical claims regarding Chandigarh. Therefore, any kind of centralisation attempt must be categorically and unequivocally resisted,” SFS said.
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