Chandigarh: Hours after the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab announced an allocation of Rs 164 crore for Punjabi University, Patiala, in its annual budget, varsity vice-chancellor Arvind Friday publicly protested against the move and called upon “all Punjabis” to put pressure on the government to increase the grant and “save” the institution from closure.
In a video statement issued on the university’s official Facebook page, Arvind said the Punjab government had played a “cruel joke” on the university by allocating a mere Rs 164 crore, against the Rs 360 crore it had sought.
Speaking in chaste Punjabi, the vice-chancellor said in his five-minute message that it was impossible to run the university with the reduced allocation. He added that if the university shuts down because of the lack of funds “it would sound the death knell of Punjab and Punjabi”.
A noted quantum physicist who had previously served as the dean of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali, Arvind was appointed the vice-chancellor of the Punjabi University in April 2021 for three years, during the erstwhile Congress government in the state headed by Captain Amarinder Singh.
Arvind’s predecessor, Prof B.S. Ghuman, a veteran academic from the discipline of public administration, had resigned in November 2020 over a major financial crisis in the university.
Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Cheema presented a Rs 1.96 lakh crore budget in the Vidhan Sabha Friday, the first full budget of the Aam Aadmi Party government in the state since it came to power in February last year. Overall, this year’s budget has proposed an outlay of Rs 17,072 crore for school and higher education, a 12% hike from the previous year.
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V-C breaks it down
In his statement, Arvind said that the annual salary bill of the university was Rs 468 crore, which translated into Rs 39 crore per month. “If we add another Rs 100 crore for the water, electricity bill etc., then the total budget of the university is around Rs 575 crore. Out of this, the university is able to generate Rs 200 crore through fees and affiliations,” he said. He added that they had made it clear to the government that without the Rs 360-crore grant, “it would be impossible for us to run the university”.
Acknowledging the financial compulsions of the state government, Arvind said it was understandable if the budgetary support sought by the university was cut marginally.
“This government has been proclaiming its concern about education and health. On 29 March (last year), Chief Minister (Bhagwant Mann) said here that he had come to know that education is under debt and he would rectify it. But now with this grant, (announced as part of Thursday’s budget), education is not only under debt, but will continue to remain so,” he said.
The Punjabi University was established in 1962 to further the cause of Punjabi language, literature and art. “Ours is a 60-year-old university… and we will do our best to make sure that it does not shut down,” said the V-C, appealing to the Punjab government to increase its grant to Rs 360 crore.
He said the university was catering to almost two lakh students from poorer and rural areas of Malwa region in Punjab, providing them high quality education at very low fees. “It is the duty of the government to provide this grant, we are not begging for it,” he said.
He exhorted all those “who are attached to the Punjabi language” to exert pressure by whatever means they can on the government for the grant.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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