PM’s alma mater wants to become central university

March 28th, 2008 - 10:44 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, March 28 (IANS) The university in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh studied in the 1950s and where he started his career as a teacher is knocking at his doors to get itself central university status. Panjab University (PU), where Manmohan Singh taught in the economics department in the mid-1960s, is trying its best to get central university status so that it can be directly funded and run by the central government.

But the Punjab government has opposed the move. The university is neither a state nor a central university but has a unique status with the central and Punjab governments having a 60:40 percent share in its funding.

The university authorities have written to the prime minister four or five times, made representations to his Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair and now intend to meet Manmohan Singh on the issue, according to professor Manjit Singh, secretary of the PU teachers’ association (PUTA).

PU, set up in Lahore (now in Pakistan) in 1882, is considered the best among all universities in this region and is rated among the top institutions in the country. The central government recently asked the state government for comments on converting the university into a central one.

The plea of the Parkash Singh Badal-led Akali Dal government in opposing central status for the university is that if the Chandigarh-headquartered university is given central status, the state’s claim to have the union territory of Chandigarh as its capital will be eroded.

This excuse has left the PU faculty and staff dumbstruck.

“The Punjab government is unable to fulfil the growing need of this university for funds. It has frozen the annual budget of PU at just Rs.160 million (Rs.16 crore). When it cannot afford the funding, it has no right to object to its becoming a central university. Linking its future to the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab is absurd,” Manjit Singh told IANS here.

Of PU’s Rs.1.30 billion (Rs.130 crore) budget, nearly Rs.450 million comes from its own resources while the central government gives Rs.380 million. The Punjab government has lowered its funding to just Rs.160 million.

University officials maintain that if the central government does not chip in, PU will land in a big financial mess.

On Wednesday, perhaps for the first time in the history of the university, its teachers and students protested against the Punjab government’s objections to its being given central status.

The present controversy has erupted when the university is celebrating the diamond jubilee of its existence in independent India.

“I don’t understand what the problem with the Punjab government is. If they cannot give money for PU, why should they lay claim to it?” asked Abhimanyu, a student.

The university has 175 affiliated colleges, most of them in districts in Punjab. Interestingly, while colleges in Punjab’s Mohali district - just 10 km away - are not affiliated to PU, colleges in Muktsar - the home district of Chief Minister Badal located 300 km away, are affiliated to it.

After India’s partition, Panjab University was re-established in joint Punjab (Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana) and moved to its present campus in Sector 14 here in 1956 when Chandigarh had just been created. It is touted to have one of the best campuses in the country.

Manmohan Singh first studied in a college in Amritsar affiliated to PU before joining the university in Chandigarh in the 1950s and 60s. He became part of the faculty in the mid-1960s and was elevated to the rank of full professor at the young age of 32.

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