Maharashtra State govt circular raises questions over autonomy of universities

Written by Abha Goradia
| Mumbai |

Published: March 20, 2020 1:57:06 am

Earlier too, the state government in the Assembly had proposed that universities should seek permission for purchases from the department, which was turned down by the Speaker. (Representational Photo)

The Higher and Technical Education department has written a letter to all 11 non-agricultural universities in the state asking them to return the balance amount of the grant money that was given to them by the state. The letter states that failure to do so would lead to the universities not getting funds from the state in the coming year.

On Mach 13, the department wrote to the universities as well as the state director of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), a centrally sponsored scheme under HRD ministry, along with the director of higher education, asking them to transfer the balance amount in their accounts to the government. This is the first time that the government has sent such a letter to the universities, which are autonomous in nature, members of the universities have claimed.

Many of them have also expressed their dissent to the respective vice-chancellors. Earlier too, the state government in the Assembly had proposed that universities should seek permissions for purchases from the department, which was turned down by the Speaker.

The letter by the higher education department, accessed by The Indian Express, was as per the direction of a letter addressed to it by the state finance department on March 9. The letter adds that all institutions must forward the balance amount by March 16. The institutions were also asked to submit a compliance report to the finance ministry. Those who fail to take action in this regard may not get funds from the state in the coming year, the letter added.

Mumbai University senate and management council member Neel Helekar said this issue will be opposed by the members in the upcoming management council meeting. Meanwhile, Chancellor Nominee for Jalgaon University, Dilip Patil has said that all management council members of the varsity have already submitted a memorandum in this regard to the Vice-Chancellor as well as the Chancellor (Governor). “Apart from RUSA funds, the state gives less than required funds for the salary grants. How can they ask us to even submit funds we have received from the students? This has not happened in the past 30 years,” he said.

Former member of the department’s Uniform Statutes Committee, educationist Anil Rao said, “Those departments directly under the control of the government are asked to send balance amount at the end of the year for the purpose of mobilization of funds. But the universities are independent autonomous authorities governed by Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016. The authority to oversee financial accounts and auditing of the varsities lies with statutory bodies like senate and management council. The state should make clear demarcation on which funds they want to pull back.”

The state government allocates salary grants to the universities for teaching and non-teaching staff. There are also special sanctions for some chairs created for research, as well as state contribution to colleges through RUSA scheme. Apart from state, universities receive funds from several other bodies such as University Grants Commission, department of science and technology,international collaborations, industrial joint ventures. internal source of fund generation such as re-evaluation, affiliation, etc.

Pune University management council member Prasenjeet Fadnavis said that the members have communicated their opposition to the vice-chancellor. Whereas Nagpur University member Vishnu Changde said that over 12 members will be signing a joint memorandum against this letter.

When contacted, director of higher education Dhanraj Mane told The Indian Express that he has submitted a clarification to the education department but refused to comment on the matter. State RUSA director Pankaj Kumar said, “Whatever funds are received by the RUSA from the state government are directly transferred to the colleges they’re meant for. Hence, we don’t have any funds to return to the government.”

Despite repeated attempts, Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant could not be contacted.

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