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Rs 3000cr Jadavpur University riddle

Proposal was for Rs 1015cr: VC
Jadavpur University campus in Calcutta
Jadavpur University campus in Calcutta

Subhankar Chowdhury And Basant Kumar Mohanty   |   Calcutta   |   Published 06.09.19, 09:59 PM

Jadavpur University said on Friday it was “not aware of any budget of Rs 3,000 crore” that the Centre had cited while asking the Bengal government to shell out two-thirds of that sum for JU to be declared an Institute of Eminence.

A letter that the Union human resource development ministry had sent to the Bengal chief secretary on August 6 had referred to a Rs 3,000-crore budget.

On Friday, JU vice-chancellor Suranjan Das told The Telegraph: “I am not aware of any budget of Rs 3,000 crore.”

“We had submitted a proposal for Rs 1,015 crore over a period of five years in keeping with a December 2017 guideline. A detailed break-up was attached to the original proposal.”

Under the head “executive summary”, the proposal said the university wanted Rs 410 crore towards research, Rs 230 crore towards academics, Rs 25 crore for networking and collaboration, Rs 300 crore towards general infrastructure and Rs 50 crore for maintenance.

“We did not send any revised proposal,” said a JU professor who was part of the team that had drawn up the budget proposal.

But the Union human resource development ministry’s letter on August 6 had estimated the total cost for five years at Rs 3,000 crore.

The August 6 letter had said: “It is informed that as per the proposal submitted by Jadavpur University, the total cost for meeting the objectives of IoE (Institute of Eminence) over five-year period has been estimated at Rs 3,000 crore out of which, the central government under the scheme would provide grants to the extent of 50% to 75% of the total requirement or Rs 1,000 crore whichever is less, in a span of five years and the remaining amount would be borne by the state government and the university,” it said.

The state government has not assured any such sum, nor did JU figure among the five public-funded institutions that were accorded the tag on Thursday.

Das said that when the university had last year applied for a Rs 100-crore grant under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan to upgrade its infrastructure and research capabilities, it knew that the state government had to cough up 40 per cent of the money.

“We signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre on the basis of this clause. We started receiving the funds from last November. But in the case of the Institution of Eminence tag, we were not aware of any such clause (about the state government having to provide a part of the funds),” he said.

Bengal’s higher education department had found the amount mentioned in the Union HRD ministry’s letter to the chief secretary “surprising”, an official said.

“This (the reference to Rs 3,000 crore) seems an afterthought on the part of the Union ministry. The university had submitted a budget proposal for Rs 1,015 crore, so where does the question of the state government having to provide Rs 2,000 crore come from?” the official said.

“This is surprising. As far as we know, the Union ministry was expected to give the university Rs 1,015 crore over five years in keeping with the original proposal.”

Asked whether the state would write to the Union ministry about the mismatch between what the university had sought and the ministry had cited, the official said: “We are now at the level of forming an opinion. Then we will take a call.”

The five institutions awarded the eminence tag on Thursday are IIT Madras, BHU, IIT Kharagpur, Delhi University and Hyderabad University. All of them will receive up to Rs 1,000 crore for expansion and improvement.

“In regard to 2 State Universities, Jadavpur University, West Bengal, and Anna University, Tamil Nadu, were also selected by the Empowered Committee and the State Governments have been asked to indicate their commitment towards their contribution under the IoE scheme,” a ministry media release said.

A JU official said the university felt that the Narendra Modi government was reluctant to grant the eminence tag. He cited how the University Grants Commission had said on August 2 that it would consult the state government about matching grants before deciding whether the tag would be awarded to JU.

“We were then under the impression that the UGC was asking the state government to give Rs 500 crore. But now it has emerged that they want the state government to give Rs 2,000 crore by escalating the project cost to Rs 3,000 crore,” the official said.

State education minister Partha Chattejee had last month described the Union ministry’s stand as “cheating”.

“Before the general election, the HRD ministry said it would bear the entire burden while awarding the status to a state-funded university like JU,” he had told The Telegraph on August 3.

“Now that the elections are over, they are coming up with new conditions, such as that the state has to bear half the burden for JU to be eligible to earn the status. This amounts to cheating.”

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