The Government of Kerala’s restriction to confine all varsity transactions to Government treasury counters is bringing impediments to the fiscal freedom of the institutions which are supposed to be autonomous. It is all set to convert academic activities to a standstill because they find it difficult to pool money for routine expenses. Several research programmes are said to be abandoned halfway through. Earlier, varsities handled transactions through bank accounts; therefore, the varsity authorities could handle transactions without hassle.
But, under the new regime of fiscal activities, it is entangled in bureaucracies in a new system has been implemented this year. The Government insisted on transferring the balance of last year’s allocation to the treasury; varsities had to comply with this, and the varsities are bound to depend on treasury. Now, the expenses above a certain amount can be had from the treasury only with the prior permission of the Finance Ministry, a rude blow to the varsities. It is to be remembered that treasuries have been barred from passing bills above Rs 10 lakhs. Earlier, it was Rs 25 lakhs. The special permission of the Finance Department is essential for approving bills above Rs 10 lakhs.
Varsities were given autonomy to ensure academic excellence and impartiality in higher education. Academic-administrative-fiscal liberties are the strong bases for the autonomy of the varsities. The allocations for academic expenses, including the funds for the projects the varsity takes up and non-project expenses like salary and pensions, are the significant fiscal support for the varsities. The Government allocates funds for the project based on the proposals received from the varsity.
It is said that they often need the requested funds. And, now, the allocated funds rest in the treasury. During the last fiscal year, the previous instalment of the non-project funds was not released. It was a heavy blow to the varsities. Knowledgeable people are afraid that their salary and pension will be in hot soup if the situation continues like this. They fear a KSRTC-like (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) plight. It is to be remembered that KSRTC is infamous for non-payment of salaries and pensions.
There are people in the academic sector who believe that the Government of Kerala is gradually withdrawing from the arena of higher education; fund control is a hint. The order to find pension amounts from its sources is also a hint. Later on, that order was withdrawn. If Government of Kerala’s aid is stopped, the cost of higher education will go up. Varsities cannot increase their income without increasing fees, etc. The Government of Kerala welcomes foreign varsities and private educational institutes, but people belonging to the lower strata of Kerala need our varsities to rely on, because of the funds the Government of Kerala allocates.
Right-thinking people demand the earliest Government of Kerala action to ensure the necessary funds flow for the varsities to uphold their autonomy and assure the weaker sections of the society of quality education. Reports suggest that Kerala University alone has 45 departments. The allocation of project funds ranges from Rs 25 lakhs to 3 crores. It depends on the project. Usually, this amount is deposited into the departments.
The latest development appears to be deliberately designed to bring trouble to Universities. If the varsities’ standard goes down, students’ next options are other states or abroad. Even otherwise, thousands of students fly out every month to Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) for higher education. It is a pity when the nation is marching towards a glorious future.