‘Save the University of Madras’


The irony is that the A++ Graded University is found to be violative of I-T Laws. The I-T Department had frozen the bank accounts of the University of Madras, a 165-year-old State University that produced great personalities like Sir C V Raman.

According to I-T Rules, a State University should get 51% of its funding from the State Government. At present, Madras University is getting only 19% of its funding as salary grant due to many reasons. Citing the State Government's grant accounting for less than 20% of its expenditure, the income tax department has sought Rs 424 crore as income tax from the university.

It also froze all its bank accounts. Without access to all bank accounts, all the routine functions of the university have been affected. The issue is not something that is about freezing or de-freezing. The issue is about the categorisation of the University. Whether the University of Madras is a Public Funded State University or it is a Private University?

The State Government for various reasons, mainly due to audit objections, reduced the Government Grants over a period of time. If irregularities are observed it is duty of the State Government, the owner of the University, to take such measures to identify the cause for the irregularities and take appropriate measures to ensure that every action of the university is in accordance with the law and the university is able to carry on the research and other academic activities as per the agreed guidelines and provisions.

The Government of Tamil Nadu for over a decade failed to take remedial measures. Instead it reduced the spending. The State Government Grant to the University was substantially reduced. The university employed temporary teaching staff with a monthly salary of Rs 30,000. Almost all the teaching and non teaching staff recruited in the past ten years was temporary staff.

Inspite of all challenges, the teachers and students put in their best efforts to maintain the academic standards. The approach of the Government over a period of time with regard to this university was in tune with Draft NEP that was placed in public domain for discussion in 2016.

The UGC reduced its grants. States faced financial crunch. Naturally, the State Governments were forced to implement NEP even during the draft stage. The university was allowed to find its own sources to meet its requirements. As a result the University introduced self- finance courses, parallel self- finance sections. In a particular course, one set of students were Government Grant Students and another set of students were self- financed Students.

On one hand Government spending on the university decreased and spending by University through its own source increased. This led to the I-T Department placing the University of Madras in the category of "Private University". If the university is allowed to function by mobilising funds through its own sources including approaching the philanthropists and CSR, in the longer run the university will claim that it need not follow the Reservation Policy of the State of Tamil Nadu.

It is pertinent to note that NEP 2020 is silent on the issue of Reservation based on Social and Educational Backwardness in both admission and recruitment. The NEP 2020 clearly States that the Government will spend only for the core area and the Public Institutions will be encouraged to mobilise funds through its own sources including approaching the philanthropists and CSR.

The Governing Council of the Higher Education Institutions will have corporate representatives. The Autonomous Status of the Higher Education Institution is not to grant academic freedom or meant for academic purpose. The academic, administrative and financial autonomy that NEP2020 envisages is to slowly but surely convert all public funded State Universities into Private Universities.

The crisis in the University of Madras is a wake-up call. The similar crises or more serious crises are sure to happen in any State University in any part of India.

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Vol 56, No. 39, Mar 24 - 30, 2024