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Funds team turns on the heat
- CU’s cash-crunch plea on vacant posts fails to sway UGC

Calcutta University (CU) may not have much face left to ask the University Grants Commission (UGC) for aid during the 10th-Plan period because of its “poor performance” in the Ninth Plan.

Officials say an eight-member UGC team, now visiting the various CU campuses, has been “irked” by the university’s inability to fill new posts and complete research projects in the last Plan.

“Though the report is going to be submitted in New Delhi, the attitude of the UGC officials, after they heard certain aspects of the university’s functioning, did not seem very encouraging,” admitted a senior teacher on the Ballygunge campus (where the university houses some of its science faculty departments).

“The visiting team asked too many questions on the large number of vacancies in every department of the university.

The answers, however, did nothing to boost the UGC’s attitude towards the CU, vis-à-vis the benefits that could accrue to the university during the 10th Plan,” the teacher added.

The UGC team has as its convener former Delhi University vice-chancellor V.R. Mehta. Others in the team include senior teachers from universities of Bombay, Patna, Pune, Shri Satya Sai Institute of Andhra Pradesh and Indira Gandhi National Open University, besides the UGC member-secretary and its statistical officer.

The highly-qualified team has made it difficult for departmental heads and CU officials to evade hard issues, university officials admitted.

The hardest fact, they said, was the large number of vacancies in the university — nearly 200 — for which the authorities could give no convincing replies. Members of the UGC fact-finding team were reportedly not pleased to learn the reason: a cash crunch that has forced the state government to look the other way, despite the growing number of vacancies.

The university’s refusal to take advantage of the new posts the UGC had sanctioned for it during the Ninth-Plan period, too, did not go down very well with the visiting team, officials said. Though departmental heads and university officials explained that they could do very little because of the state government’s refusal to give its concurrence, it was not enough to convince the UGC team, they felt.

The state government is not giving its go-ahead to the posts because of the financial implications, say officials. According to the current set of rules determining the apportioning of financial responsibilities between the UGC and the state governments, the former has to pay for the salary-component of a recruit in a newly-sanctioned post for the first five years; after that, paying for the incumbent’s salary is the headache of the state government.

Officially, however, the university and the state government do not know anything of the UGC’s stand. “The officials are now busy preparing their report and it will not be possible for the university to throw light on what they may have to say,” said registrar Ujjwal Basu.

State higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty, too, felt the tiff with the UGC was not confined to West Bengal. “Other states, too, are having problems with the UGC’s refusal to bear the financial burden of the new posts after the first five years,” he told Metro on Wednesday.

The UGC team is leaving for Delhi on Thursday.

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