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Blame game on Baker

- Presi-government row over funds use

Presidency University and the state government blamed each other for the historic Baker Building falling to bits a day after chunks of concrete from a ceiling injured two postgraduate students.

University sources said the money sanctioned by the government to renovate the College Street campus was a fraction of the required amount, a contention that an official of the higher education department countered with: “Let them first utilise the grant already disbursed.”

Presidency had asked for Rs 50 crore in 2012 to repair the crumbling building. The government announced a grant of Rs 3.8 crore last June and the money was disbursed in September.

The university has invited and received bids for renovation, but the contract hasn’t been finalised.

“They should have spent whatever they had got and then asked for more. If they had utilised the funds and submitted another project, we would have released one more instalment,” the higher education department official said.

Of the Rs 3.8 crore already disbursed, Rs 1.85 crore is for the renovation of Baker Building that houses laboratories and classrooms.

“The grant is far below our requirement. The bulk of the Rs 50 crore we have asked for would be required for roof treatment, floor casting throughout the four-storey building and repairing the damaged staircases. Given the meagre amount in hand, it’s hard to figure out where to start,” a university official said.

On Thursday, postgraduate students Shreya Sengupta and Chandroma Majumder were chatting over tea after a laboratory session when a concrete block an inch thick and the size of two bricks came off the ground-floor ceiling. A chunk fell on Shreya’s head and another struck Chandroma on her forehead, their impact hardened by the 25ft drop from the high ceiling.

“My head hurt and I panicked on seeing Chandroma bleeding. We all know that parts of Baker Building are in a dilapidated state, but who would expect a part of the ceiling to fall on one’s head?” said Shreya, a second-year student of molecular biology.

Chandroma, who had been admitted to Ruby hospital on the Bypass, was discharged on Friday because the CT scan did not show any internal injury.

Shreya has been advised a week’s rest.

“During the rainy season, the roof of the biochemistry lab on the fourth floor was leaking. The entire floor would be almost waterlogged. When our teachers informed the authorities, minor repairs were carried out on the terrace,” a second-year MSc student said.

“A fan had fallen off the ceiling last year in the middle of a laboratory session,” another student recalled.

A Presidency official said there was little the university could do without government support.“In January 2012, the government had promised an annual purse of Rs 7 crore as R&D grant. Not a penny has reached the institution.”

A teacher who had joined Presidency after being sold on the exciting prospect of the state government turning it into a world-class institute now harbours little hope of promises turning into reality. Some teachers have quit Presidency because the university pays less than central institutes.

“Now people might leave because of its appalling infrastructure,” said a new faculty member.