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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Post uproar, Haryana reverses decision on loans to varsities, says grant will continue

The teaching and non-teaching employees of 13 state-run universities have been protesting the government decision of offering loan to the universities instead of grants-in-aid ever since the finance department took a decision in this regard on April 29 this year.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh |
May 13, 2022 3:00:34 am
Manohar Lal Khattar. (File)

After facing major protests against its decision to give loans to the universities instead of grants-in-aid, the Haryana government Thursday announced that “the state will continue the support universities through non-recoverable financial assistance in the form of grants-in-aid”.

The teaching and non-teaching employees of 13 state-run universities have been protesting the government decision of offering loan to the universities instead of grants-in-aid ever since the finance department took a decision in this regard on April 29 this year. That day, the finance department had also approved the loan of Rs 147.75 crore for 10 state-run universities. Then, in an official note, the state finance department had mentioned: “Finance department agrees with the proposal of administrative department to approve the loan of Rs 147.75 crore as first installment for the state universities under the scheme…loans during the financial year 2022-23.”

A senior officer of Haryana government told The Indian Express that the decision of loans instead of grant-in-aid was aimed at maintaining financial disciple and responsibility on the part of university management.

However, unions of teaching and non-teaching staffers started protesting the decision on the ground that it would force the universities to hike the fees which will hit the students hard especially those from the weaker sections. The unions also claimed that such a decision was taken at a time when grants to the universities were already dwindling.

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According to Haryana Federation of Universities and Colleges Teachers Organisation (HFUCTO) president Vikas Siwach, the teaching and non-teaching staffers of the universities and their affiliated colleges were wearing black badges since Monday to protest the decision of doing away with the grants-in-aid to the universities and giving loans instead.

“On Wednesday, the staffers and students even observed a strike for three hours to raise their voice against the decision. Not only this, a general body of teachers from all universities was also called in Rohtak on Friday to take future course of action,” added Siwach. Even senior Opposition leaders from Haryana were protesting the decision of the state government terming it a move aimed at commercialization of the education while the universities were set up for higher education and research work.

Amid growing protests, the Additional Chief Secretary (higher education) Anand Mohan Sharan on Thursday (May 12) issued an official letter to mention that the amount of Rs 147.75 crores to universities is “grant-in-aid only”. In the letter, the ACS also claimed that the intent of the previous decision was to “maintain subsidiary asset as per the recommendation of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and to enable appropriate provision of maintenance of these capital assets of universities in the state government’s annual budget every year” adding “this approach would help the state government to account for the said asset as a capital asset instead of revenue asset, thereby enabling the government to continue to provide financial assistance to maintain these assets on a continued basis and address the concern of lack of adequate resources with the universities in maintaining these assets”. The ACS also mentioned that the objective of the earlier move was “to highlight the financial autonomy, independence and self-reliance of the universities” and
“further increase in productivity and quality, through internal resource generation through activities that will further enhance their skills and further increase the employability of their students”.

However, while referring to the decision related to loans to the universities instead of grants-in-aid, BJP leader and former state finance minister Sampat Singh had stated: “This practically meant that all government universities would have to adopt self-financing pattern which in turn meant students would be paying exorbitant fees to angle the universities to pay off these loans. This would lead to universities running losses and going bankrupt giving the government an excuse to sell these off to private business houses of their choice.”

Sampat Singh had added that the government did not tire of claiming credit for setting up new universities, but on the other hand it was making sure that the existing universities which had over decades turned in to centres of educational excellence would face closure in the very near future.

The former Minister said “the decision of loans was taken merely to help existing private universities in Haryana at the cost of existing state universities which would later be sold to private parties”.

“I fear that the same loan scheme would be extended later to government colleges, schools and technical educational institutions too.”

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