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Rs 100cr for CU on fast track

New Delhi, July 14: The Centre will cut through red tape as a “special” case to speed up release of sums of Rs 100 crore promised to the universities of Calcutta, Mumbai and Madras by the Prime Minister in 2006.

The decision comes after a stinging reprimand from the parliamentary standing committee on human resource development (HRD), and means the universities are likely to receive the funds by budget time 2010, government sources said.

The “disturbed” parliamentary panel’s comments have already led to sums of Rs 15 crore being released to the universities, each of which has now received Rs 30 crore of the Rs 100 crore promised, HRD ministry sources said.

Central funds for universities are usually sanctioned through the University Grants Commission (UGC), India’s apex varsity regulatory and funding body.

Sanctioning of funds by the UGC however takes months, even years, after the process of granting money is kicked off, and the varsities are put through a rigorous check before any money is released.

Now, on the advice of the parliamentary panel, the HRD ministry has decided to bypass many of the UGC’s stringent norms and will directly monitor the release of the remaining Rs 70 crore to each of the three universities, sources said.

“Apart from the additional Rs 15 crore released, we will now be keeping disbursing funds at regular intervals,” an HRD ministry source said, adding that the parliamentary panel had “made it clear” that all funds must be released before the end of the 2009-10 financial year.

On March 30, 2008, The Telegraph had reported how the universities were virtually grovelling before the Centre for the funds, promised as recognition for their service to the nation and coinciding with their 150-year celebrations. Set up in 1857, Calcutta University, Mumbai University and Madras University are the oldest among India’s modern varsities.

Only Rs 15 crore of the promised Rs 100 crore had reached the universities, who had written to the HRD ministry to speed up the disbursement of funds.

The original promise, made in finance minister P. Chidambaram’s 2006 budget speech, said the funds must be spent by 2009. Chidambaram’s caveat will now be interpreted as laying down that the funds must be spent by the end of 2009-10.

“These universities are proud symbols of India. The committee feels a special case needs to be made to ensure they receive funds on time,” the report of the parliamentary panel says.

Each of the three universities is to develop research facilities for specific areas of nanotechnology using the funds. Calcutta University will concentrate on nano-chemical materials.

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