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After Punjab, should PU allow Haryana’s foothold or demand to be a central university?

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Haryana government Wednesday requested that some of its colleges be affiliated to the Chandigarh-based Panjab University and in return offered financial aid. For Punjab, agreeing to this offer would mean diluting its claim on Chandigarh as its capital city.

Many have touted this as a political move ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

ThePrint asks: After Punjab, should PU allow Haryana’s foothold or demand to be a central university?

Any contribution from Haryana is welcome, but not with strings attached

Arun Kumar Grover
Vice-chancellor, Panjab University

Panjab University is an ‘inter-state body corporate’. It is neither a central university nor a state university. Its funding is shared by the Centre and Punjab. While its status is unique in the country, it is actually an orphan university. We are nobody’s child.

The Centre gives us a limited amount, a share of each year’s maintenance deficit, to run our affairs. And a little bit of the maintenance is shared by Punjab. Till recently, Punjab’s share was fixed, but now it has increased and will hopefully continue to be enhanced.

Because of being an inter-state body corporate, we are not eligible for central grants doled out by the UGC to central universities. Since we are not a state university we are denied grants under the RUSA- the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan. Colleges affiliated to this university located in Chandigarh get grants under the RUSA, but we don’t. The result is that the university is facing a huge financial crunch.

Apart from being barely able to meet our daily expenditure, we have zero development funds. University staff housing is suffering; there are not enough hostels, and there is no money to do any development work. The university has no problem in affiliating colleges located in the Chandigarh capital region— whether they fall in Punjab or Haryana. Any contribution from Haryana is welcome too but it should not come with strings attached.

We should stop interfering with universities for political gains

Manpreet Singh Badal
Punjab finance minister

It is time we stopped politicising universities and desist from creating another issue that divides people. This is akin to creating controversies on issues that have already been decided. Let us talk about history, contemporary times as well as the future.

Let me revisit a chapter from history to narrate how raking such issues is not only divisive, but it can also lead to law and order issues and loss of life. When Punjab was partitioned in 1947, people gave their lives to safeguard our education system. The registrar of PU, Madan Gopal Singh went to Lahore to retrieve crucial university documents, and he was murdered in Lahore. Economics professor Brij Narain was also killed in the frenzy.

PU owes a lot to these people.

Let us talk about contemporary issues. First, Haryana unilaterally stopped aiding Panjab University in 1975-76. Secondly, it removed all Haryana colleges from the ambit of PU and shifted them to universities in Haryana. Finally, it was during the tenure of the NDA government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee that senators from Haryana, by an official notification issued from the Centre, ceased to be members of the Panjab University senate.

So why this ruckus now? Does the BJP government in Haryana led by Manohar Lal Khattar not appreciate the actions taken and implemented by the Vajpayee Government?

Instead of disturbing a functioning system of governance at Panjab University, let us not create controversies to garner more votes. We know that elections in Haryana are due next year, but disrupting our academia for a political agenda is petty.

Instead, let us create more world-class universities. And contribute more to our universities rather than interfering with them.

Both Haryana and Punjab should have equal rights to PU syndicate

Randeep Surjewala
In-charge, communication, AICC, and former PU syndic, senator

Panjab University, a centre of excellence, is an important educational institute for both the states of Punjab and Haryana. The two states have constantly demanded that the university should be designated as a central university with the government of India contributing towards meeting the university’s expenditure in toto.

To begin with, the BJP should stop playing this dishonest game and declare PU a central university. This university will then be eligible for central grants and be able to not just meet its expenses but also develop further. Its employees will also get central pay grades.

Second, Punjab and Haryana should have the option of affiliating their colleges to the Panjab University. A lot of colleges in Punjab are affiliated to this university, but no Haryana college is affiliated to PU. Haryana’s representation in the University senate, which was done away with by the last BJP government in the Centre, should be restored. It was an injustice meted out to Haryana during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s regime which should be undone by the Modi government. Representation of Haryana colleges and professors is a must in the senate and the syndicate.

Panjab University deserves central university status to sustain itself as leading institution

Rajesh Gill
Professor and president, Panjab University Teachers Association

Panjab University with a long and illustrious history has once again landed in controversy regarding its status. While the central government has been contributing a major share of the university finances, with a smaller portion coming in from the Punjab government, the university has landed in the worst kind of financial crunch of late.

The government of Haryana has now offered to revive its stake in the university, given that a large proportion of the university’s students come from the state. Before taking any decision, however, it is pertinent to note that there is an equivocal and strong sentiment among the university faculty for a central university status being granted to Panjab University.

This is the most genuine demand in view of the fact that the university is already being funded, majorly, by the Centre. Second, the university, given the quality of faculty and research, is gasping for a vibrant environment for research, innovation, teaching and community work, to sustain itself as a leading institution, locally and globally.

Panjab University, therefore, deserves the central university status, so that it can offer an enriching environment to its teachers, students and provide valuable inputs to society.

Haryana’s claim on PU is purely a legal question that requires a judicial review

R.D. Anand
Former director, Association of Indian Universities, and former PU syndic, senator

Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act (1966) has been misconstrued by the central government as a perennial source of power to amend the Panjab University Act of 1947. It was a transitional act to provide ad-hoc arrangements until laws were framed by the respective states.

The 1947 act could not be amended by notifications or executive directions under Section 72 of the 1966 act. The full bench of the Punjab-Haryana High court, speaking through Justice Surya Kant, has laid down that Section 72 is merely an enabling provision, and the power to cause exception or modification in any central or state act is not unguided, unfettered or unbridled.

Executive directions do not partake the character of a Parliamentary legislature. Haryana had its representation in the university senate from different constituencies under Section 13 of the 1947 act, which was taken away by such executive directions.

The state of Haryana is well advised to challenge the vires of such notifications if they are really interested in participating in the affairs of the university. However, it is not a game of ‘Aaya Ram Gaya Ram’, Haryana’s seminal contribution to Indian politics.

It is purely a legal question that requires judicial review. Whether Panjab University merits to be a central university is another question. In fact, higher education should be only the province of the Centre, and school education be left to the states. But who will dare to do so? Indira Gandhi could do it, and even Modi can try.

What is needed is academic autonomy rather than governmentality for financial sustenance

Pramod Kumar
Director, Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh

The debate on whether Panjab University should be a central university or funded by the Centre, or by both the Centre and State has to be located in the unresolved issues between the Centre, Punjab and Haryana. It is also related to the new mandate to provide university education linked with the industrial and commercial economy.

To meet the financial deficit, the practical solutions offered are a fee hike and vocationalisation of varsities to pay teachers’ salaries. This is a trap. The higher education and public universities have to pursue excellence, creativity and innovation. This mandate is going by default.

The dominant discourse should be how to make universities strive for excellence. The functioning of the Panjab University has been adversely affected by two historical incidents i.e. Partition of India in 1947 and the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966. The resolution to this must be found within the framework of larger autonomy to pursue excellence rather than merely looking for a financial package for the university.

The tendency towards centralisation and standardisation must be abandoned. The university has efficient teachers, academic council, a senate and therefore, can decide whether it wants to be central university or continue to be governed without affiliation with the Centre or state Governments. What is needed is academic autonomy rather than succumbing to governmentality in order to achieve financial sustainability.

Haryana’s claim to PU is as valid as its claim over Chandigarh

Gian Chand Gupta
BJP MLA, Panchkula, and PU alumni

Haryana’s claim over Panjab University is as valid as is its claim over Chandigarh. After the reorganisation everything in Chandigarh was divided amongst the two states in the ratio of 60:40.

Just as we have claim over other assets in Chandigarh like the High Court, the Vidhan Sabha and the Secretariat, we have a claim over PU. Haryana withdrew from PU when Bansi Lal Legha was the chief minister. He did it for personal reasons which were not in the interest of the state. I have heard that he was invited by the university where the CM of Punjab was also present. Bansi Lal was probably not given due respect and was upset.

I have been working for the past one year towards restoring Haryana’s share in the university. I met the PU chancellor M. Venkaiah Naidu as well as the home minister Rajnath Singh. The colleges falling in Panchkula, Ambala and Yamunanagar should be affiliated to PU. It is a renowned university with a good national ranking and our students will benefit from affiliating with PU. Moreover, we will be giving the university the same grant as is being done by Punjab. We will also ensure that Haryana is duly represented in the PU senate and syndicate.

Modi government should have power and confidence to make PU a central university

Shekhar Gupta
Editor-in-chief, ThePrint

In the more chilled out 1940s, when political correctness was defined very differently, even Jawaharlal Nehru could afford a risqué sense of humour. In a letter from jail to Communist leader P.C Joshi this is how he apparently described the predicament of Indian Communists, conflicted between the national freedom movement and supporting World War-II against fascists:

There was a woman called Starkey,
Who made love to a darkey.
The result of their sins,
Were quadruplets not twins,
One black, one white and two khaki.

You know which colour he insinuated the Indian Communists were!

The reason I invoke this in 2018, hiding behind Nehru, is that this description fully fits the tragedy of my alma mater, Panjab University in Chandigarh.

Before Partition, Punjab University, one of India’s greatest, was left behind in Lahore when the state of Punjab was divided. Indian Punjabis weren’t about to give up. Even half a Punjab without its great University was unthinkable. So later they built their own, with a stunning new campus in Chandigarh. The only difference here was that Punjab was spelt with an ‘a’, so it became our Panjab University.

Post-independence idealism built it into a great institution and a home to great Indian scientists and thinkers. Then the Punjab state started becoming a troublesome landlord. The Centre, however, held its control of a unique university, jointly-owned with Punjab.

Over the years, ‘state-ification’ picked up and the great institution lost much of its national, cosmopolitan character. Lately, it’s been flushed down the usual sarkari chute, with the Centre and Punjab fighting over appointing its favourites, running own agendas and denying their respective share of grants for squeeze-play.

Haryana has walked into this melee. There’s a political pattern to it. It was quiet as long as Punjab was also under an NDA government. With Congress in power in Punjab, it was time to revive the demand for Chandigarh and everything good here.

That compounds the tragedy of Panjab University. With Haryana in the fray, it could only get more messed up.

Modi government should respectfully tell both Punjab and Haryana to buzz off and make our PU a genuine central university. No point letting a great central university be killed while you spend billions building new ones.

Haryana, meanwhile, should be advised to set up a world-class campus on its own. The Centre can help fund it, but on one condition: the holy state of ‘gai’ and ‘Geeta’ won’t name this one also after a sadhu or a baba.

Compiled by Chitleen K. Sethi, associate editor at ThePrint

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