The Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi is once again in news and this time it is because the university administration has decided to cut down a large part of its spending on academic activities of the varsity such as those on seminars, workshops, journal subscriptions, research associated endeavours and a host of other areas.
This has not been a new decision on part of the administration of the university and we have been seeing how over the last two to three years there has been a major cutting down of expenditure on academic activities of the campus. This cutting down of funds being allotted for conduction of academic activities inside the university campus has been condemned and critiqued by students and faculty alike as they see it as a major hindrance for the pursuit of academics and research activities which are central to any university space. According to a report that was recently published in the Hindustan Times, it has been stated that the academic expenses have seen a rapid decline over the last three years but the amount of spending on security and legal aspects have seen a growth.
JNU has been in constant news from 2016 onwards when the ruling establishment began to critique the political and moral groundings of the university students and argued that an anti-national atmosphere was cultivated inside the premises of the university. The protests that were held especially against the hanging of Afzal Guru by the students of the university further intensified the attack of the ruling establishment and the nationalism and credibility of the students and the entire JNU community came to be toppled and tossed in the popular media discourse.
We also saw how students of the university took active part in the organisation and mobilisation of the Anti-CAA protests and many other issues that have recently unfolded in the nation. JNU has always remained a point of political discomfort for the ruling establishment who sees it as a controversial and problematic campus.
Curtailment of Expenses on Academics and Research in JNU
Recent reports are suggestive of the fact that over the last three years there has been a rapid cutting down of budgetary expenses on academic activities inside the campus. Areas where the university administration has rapidly cut down budget spending are seminars, subscription of journals, workshops, tools and aids for teaching and research and associated activities.
After the report on financial spendings inside the university was presented before the Executive Council which is the topmost decision making body in the university, the members raised an alarm about the issue and expressed their disillusionment and discontent with the matter. The report presented was for the year 2019-20.
According to the report published in Hindustan Times, JNU administration has cut down its spending on various academic and research based activities and expanded its spendings on legal and security aspects. The annual academic expenses have been decreased by 26.38% from Rs 38.36 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 28.24 crore in 2018-19. In the year 2019-20, it was Rs 19.74 crore.
The report adds the while expenses on academics were being slashed, on September 7, a fund of over Rs 30 lakh had been approved for legal expenses alone. There has already been a sanction of Rs 9 lakh for legal issues, the additional 30 lakh is only to supplement that. Expenses in legal matters was Rs 2.72 lakh in 2017-18 and Rs 17.7 lakh in 2018-19.
Expenses for security of the university was enhanced from the initial Rs 17.37 crore in 2017-19 to Rs 18.54 crore in 2018-19. Fore the year 2019-20, the security budget of the campus was Rs 15.34 crore.
Reacting to the disillusionment among students and the faculty about the rapid cut in expenses on academic activities and research.
JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar maintained that the cutting down of expenses has not affected the performance of the university and that it continued to occupy the top position in all national rankings.
He also said that the expenses on legal matters were risen because there were innumerable cases being filed by the students and faculty and the university needed to match funds to cope with such challenges.
On the other hand the JNUTA has been quite vocal about its discontent with the reduction in funds for academic and research actives and has maintained that such a cutting down of funds has destructive effect on academics and has indeed led to many setbacks for both the students and the teachers in their pursuit of excellence.
It has led to severe compromises such as curtailment of lab material, opportunities for field work, subscription to significant academic journals, conferences and seminars etc.
They have also said that this will have drastic impacts in the long term and will curb the academic culture of the university. There has also been a severe cutting down of funds in students’ fellowships, travel expenses for teachers and so on. The administration has however maintained that students were given their fellowships on time and that the academic culture was not suffering in any way and that the academic commitments of the university were in no way being impacted by the curtailment of funds in recent months.