Chandigarh ,Prof. Manjit Singh: One of the most important reasons for asking central university status for Panjab University is its perpetually bad financial condition, thanks to the globalisation and liberalization of national policies. We tried to stem over the crisis by introducing NRI seats but that source has been closed under the decision of the Court. And now the University is trying to wriggle out of the mess by introducing new courses, so called self-financing courses, charging fee in the range of 10t to 30 times of the normal tuition fee for a mainstream course on the campus. Some of the new courses are being run with the help of pre-existing faculty, resulting with the burdening of the faculty. This is adhocism, which is not going to work in the long run. Already, the engineering students of Hoshiarpur came all the way to the campus to sit on dharna in front of the VC’s office to protest against the lack of faculty to teach the courses.
What is happening with the premier institute, i.e. P.U., is not the case with other institutions in Chandigarh such as PGI, PEC, IMTECH, and CSOI. For instance out of Rs. 210 crore net budget of PGI the Plan budget for the year 2007-08 was almost 200 per cent and in IMTECH out of Rs.23.5 crore budget the plan budget was more than 300 per cent. In contrast, out of nearly Rs. 100 crore budget of P.U. the plan budget was only 13 per cent. How can we carry out ‘world-class research’ with such a meager budget! If we don’t have any budget for research, equipments and buildings, it is futile to think of competing in the global market.
It was in September 2006, much before the pronouncements of Knowledge Commission, that the entire teaching community of P.U. put its signature on the early declaration of Panjab University as central university. On the basis of the collective will of the P.U. teaching community representations were submitted to P.M., Minister of HRD, Local M.P. and Secretary Higher Education, U.T. Chandigarh. As a follow up a series of meetings have been held with almost every political party on the issue in our attempt to convince them on our most legitimate demand. They did nothing except giving a patient hearing for the fear that they may be singled out on the politically sensitive question of central university status to P.U. The teachers and students came down to the public protests in the streets when all parleys failed.
Only recently we could put our hand on the letter issued by MHRD as far back as in July 2007 addressed to the Secretary Higher Education, U.T. Chandigarh, with the similar copy to Punjab Government, whereby Punjab Government has been offered central university status to P.U. The Punjab Government has not responded to the letter till today and its deep silence is nothing short of putting P.U. to ‘silence’ forever.
Today to de-link development from quality higher education and scientific temper is to live in fools paradise. How and why more funds to P.U. could harm political interest of the elites from Punjab is beyond our comprehension. It is reactive politics sans vision, not proactive politics for the long run development of the region. It is the result of narrow and reactive politics that Punjab state, that was the fastest growing till last decade now is rated amongst the slowest growing states of India.
While everyone from Punjab is jubilant about the announcement of setting up ‘world-class University’ in Amritsar and one IIT in Punjab, the same enthusiasm turns into deep silence on the question of up gradation of P.U. to central university. There is nothing wrong when the teachers of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar demand central university status for their university, but to ignore P.U. would be a historic mistake leading to its deterioration much faster than expected. With the implementation of new pay scales, P.U. would have funds neither for the salaries nor for the Pension, what to talk of research and academic excellence.
What if Panjab University is made central university
* The secular 10 per cent annual increase of fee of students would go the moment P.U. is declared Central University.
* No need of floating so called professional courses every now and then, primarily to mobilize funds and, in the process, excluding a large number of brilliant students as they can ill afford tuition fee to the tune of lakhs of rupees.
* Special incentive to research scholars who will be offered Rs. 3-5 thousand monthly stipend to support their expenses.
* A large number new equipments would come to the university for the use of the scholars and teachers alike.
* The University would be saved from the current mushrooming of courses, some of which have no relevance with the spirit of higher education, the universities stand for.
* The social security of employees in the form of pension would become secure as the pension will become part of the budget.
* The overall budget of the University will increase many folds, particularly the plan budget.
* Panjab University being the Mother university located at a strategic place like Chandigarh can act, in association with other upcoming institutions, as a knowledge grid for the entire region, including South West Asia.
* The efficiency of the University would increase many folds, partly due to extensive use on new technology and partly due to the removal of present administrative hassles.
* The relative academic autonomy, supported with liberal funds, would attract the best brains all over which is a crying need at the moment.
What if the opportunity falls prey to political myopia and their quibbles
* The University will be drained off its best brains by the up coming new world-class/ central universities or IITs next door.
* IITs and World-class universities would attract the best students, and P.U. have to satisfy itself with the ‘left over’.
* Caught midst the trio of state, U.T. and the Centre the University would be left with no option but to continuously struggle to achieve consensus among the divergent views/ objectives and, in the process, let the University slowly drift away from the original ‘mission’.
* Once the academic decay set in for want of funds and other academic support, it would prove to be a failure much sooner than expected.
There is never late in correcting mistakes. Goa Government decided to let Goa University be a state university when it was asked to choose between the state or central university in 1987. It took exactly two decades to get another opportunity and this time wisdom prevailed over the Goa Government which they learned through hard ways. They found Goa University not only fund starved but also drained of its best intellect during the last two decades. And now it has been declared as central university. We only hope that our politicians would try to peep out of their political shell to see the light of the hope ignited by the offer of central university status to P.U. by the MHRD. We also know that it is the most opportune time to avail the offer; if missed, we would have to pay a heavy academic cost effecting the entire region, certainly the Punjab the most.