Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Sunday sought the intervention of Union ministers Amit Shah and Dharmendra Pradhan to prevent “any change in the nature and character of the Panjab University” here. The state governmnet’s move comes nearly a month after the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the Centre to explore possibilities of converting Panjab University into a central varsity. The state government vehemently opposes any such move of Government of India to examine the feasibility of converting Panjab University into a central university, wrote the chief minister in a letter to Union Home Minister Shah and Union Education Minister Pradhan, as per an official statement issued here on Sunday.
Mann apprised both the leaders that state government will not like any change in the nature and character of the university as it has an emotional place in the hearts of the people of Punjab on account of historical, cultural and provincial reasons. The high court last month directed the Centre to examine the possibility of conversion of Panjab University into a central university. Let the decision taken by the Central Government, at least in principle, be placed before the court on the next date of hearing, the high court had said on a plea by a former Panjab University teacher, and fixed August 30 as the next date of hearing in the case. Mann bemoaned that for the past some time, “forces with certain vested interests have been trying to push the matter for change of status of Panjab University into a central university”.
Recently, many student bodies had held a protest in Chandigarh against any move to give central status to Panjab University. Mann reminded both the leaders that at the time of the reorganization of the State of Punjab in 1966, Panjab University was declared as an ‘Inter State Body Corporate’ under section 72(1) of the Punjab Reorganization Act 1966 enacted by the Parliament. The chief minister said that this status was duly confirmed in several judgments passed by courts. He said that ever since its inception, the Panjab University has been continuously and uninterruptedly functioning in the State of Punjab. Mann also said that the PU was shifted from Lahore, the then capital of Punjab, to Hoshiarpur and then to Chandigarh.
Notably, Chandigarh is the common capital of Punjab and Haryana. Mann said that at present 175 colleges of Punjab situated in the districts of Fazilka, Ferozepur, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Moga, Sri Muktsar Sahib and S B S Nagar are affiliated with the Panjab University. The chief minister asserted that entire territorial jurisdiction of the university lies primarily in state of Punjab and Union territory of Chandigarh. “As per sub-section (4) of Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966, the maintenance deficit grants to the university were to be shared and paid by the states concerned, i.e., Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and UT Administration of Chandigarh in the ratio of 20:20:20:40, respectively,” Mann wrote.
However, he said that “states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh decided to withdraw from this sharing arrangement”, adding that Haryana government also withdrew the affiliation of its colleges from the Panjab University. Thus, the chief minister pointed out that from 1976 onwards, the State of Punjab and UT Administration of Chandigarh have borne the financial responsibility of paying maintenance deficit grants to the university in the ratio of 40:60, respectively. He said that despite the increased financial burden caused due to Haryana and Himachal Pradesh withdrawal from the sharing arrangement, and the creation of new universities in the state, Punjab has continued to support Panjab University to ensure that the historical and emotional attachment of the people of Punjab with the varsity is maintained and preserved.
Mann said that the Government of Punjab is presently giving grant-in-aid of Rs 42 crore to the university annually, besides nearly Rs 100 crore annually collected by the varsity from the affiliated colleges located in Punjab. The chief minister said that Panjab University is a symbol of Punjab’s legacy and is synonymous with name of state. He said that the university caters only to the State of Punjab and its capital Chandigarh, so there exists no reason to alter its character into a central one.