New Delhi: In the last financial year, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) – an academic institution – spent Rs 17.38 crore on security. Ironically, it spent only about a fourth as much on its library – Rs. 4.18 crore, as per the university’s annual report.
In 2016-2017 as well, the proportion was similar with JNU spending Rs 3.1 crore on journals and publications as opposed to Rs 9.52 crore on security.
According to The Telegraph, this year, the varsity has made a major cut in its expenses – but on books. The library budget for the current financial year, teachers and students allege, has been reduced to Rs 1.7 crore, a nearly 60% reduction when compared to the year before. It’s budget for security – on guards, CCTV cameras, video-recording of protests and the like – however, is not clear yet.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association said on Wednesday that as per the university’s annual reports, from a budget of about Rs 6 crore per year between 2012 and 2018, the library was given Rs 1.7 crore in the current financial year.
According to The Hindu, the teachers’ body said: “The increase in the absolute amount spent extra on security is Rs 6,33,99,965 on an average in the last [few] years, which is 6.7 times more than the amount reduced for library books and e-journals.”
Last week, when the news of cuts in library budget came to light, the students’ body said: “In an extraordinary and surprising move, JNU administration has provided a detailed chart for privatisation of Dr B.R. Ambedkar Library through massive fund cuts.”
The JNUTA has Wednesday warned that substantial cuts in academic spending would hurt the quality of research and put the university’s standing at risk.
Teachers’ association president, Atul Sood told the daily that in the last two years, “the average academic expenditure as a proportion of total expenditure was down to 6.65% from 8.5%” between 2012-13 and 2015-16. And the way the budget currently stands, he feared that “most journal subscriptions will have to be discontinued.”
Finance officer Heeraman Tiwari, however, brushed aside claims that the annual budget of the library was being slashed, saying that the varsity has been allotting Rs 1.7 crore for books and journals from the grant received annually from the University Grants Commission.
“A one-time bulk grant was given by the UGC in 2012 under its 12th plan for the next five years. Now that the plan has ended, the library is running with its regular annual grant. However, JNU has made a request to the UGC to release additional funds to meet the increasing requirements of the library,” Tiwari was quoted by The Hindu as saying.
The university is in the midst of a battle with teachers and students holding a hunger strike on November 26 against the alleged “autocratic” handling of academic matters. The strike was meant to be the first in a series of such protests.
Over the last few years, the JNUTA has alleged that the VC’s undemocratic functioning is ruining the “teaching-learning practices” that had made JNU a top-performing university both nationally and globally.
However, as The Wire previously reported, on the eve of the strike, most faculty members received a letter by the administration asking them to desist from any such action with the administration saying it believed that it could resolve problems through a “mutual dialogue”.
“This is puzzling, as to what this means and why do we get this letter now? The newly-elected JNUTA had made a request to the vice-chancellor for a meeting to introduce the elected representatives to the administration over a cup of tea, but this has not even been acknowledged till date,” JNUTA said in its response.
The union has also been protesting against arbitrary seat cuts in the university, compulsory attendance rule for teachers and students brought in by the VC in research-based modules, proposed rescheduling of the academic calendar and many such directives by the administration. The JNUTA also alleges that the VC has deliberately been denying promotions to senior professors who have taken objection to such undemocratic functioning of the university.
Sood told The Telegraph that circulars this month had made “seminar participation, conference travel, project meetings and prestigious fellowships contingent on faculty members’ compliance with the diktats of the university administration”.
“Currently, faculty are being denied leave to go out even to a seminar in Delhi, let alone take up their research collaborations in India and abroad, as are any students associated with their work.”