The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill 2019 was cleared by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, granting two central universities for Andhra Pradesh. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 12.
The two universities -- Central University, Andhra Pradesh (CUAP) and Central Tribal University (CTU), Andhra Pradesh -- were promised under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act. The universities are currently operating out of transit campuses in Anantapur and Vizianagaram respectively. CUAP began its first academic session in 2018, while CTU is set to begin classes for its first batch of students in a few days.
During the discussion over the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Congress MP from Kerala Suresh Kodikunnil said that the bill does not include details about funding for the universities. When informed that detailed funding is never in the bill, Suresh said it was relevant considering that reduced funding in central universities remains a big issue. “The NDA government is known to reduce funding in central universities. Besides, the BJP government has also unduly interfered with the administration of many of the public universities in India. There has been an attempt to reformulate the curriculum to these universities,” Suresh alleged.
Ambiguities in funding
HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal said that the universities will be completed with permanent campuses and infrastructure within 4 years, without any problems with funding. He also said that the government has already allocated Rs 450 crore for CUAP against the total outlay of Rs 902.07 crore, and Rs 420 crore for CTU against the outlay of Rs 836 crore. When questioned about the delay in setting up the universities in the past 5 years since the bifurcation of AP and Telangana, Pokhriyal said that with IIT, NIT, IIM and IIIT being approved for AP already, educational institutions are being set up at a good pace in AP which was doing better than Uttarakhand, which was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.
On Tuesday in the Rajya Sabha, YSRCP MP Vijaysai Reddy said that the central government had sanctioned only Rs 18 crore for setting up the CTU in the past 5 years.
Speaking to TNM, Andhra University Vice-Chancellor G Nageswara Rao, who was made the mentor for CTU in January this year by the MHRD, said that the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for setting up the CTU submitted to the MHRD has requested for a budget of Rs 956 crore for the next 7 years. “We were told that the funds will be approved once the bill is passed. For the current financial year, we have requested Rs 161 crore.”
The 2019 Budget has allocated a total of Rs 8 crore under the head ‘Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Tribal Universities’. Nageswara Rao says he is hopeful that now that the bill has been passed, the Rs 161 crore could be sanctioned within this financial year. It is also important to note that although Rs 20 crore had been allocated under the same head in the previous year’s budget, according to the revised estimate, only Rs 1 crore was sanctioned.
For CUAP, the budget allocation this year is Rs 13 crore. Last year, of the Rs 10 crore allocated, Rs 8 crore was sanctioned according to the revised estimate.
Staff and Infrastructure
During the discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Vijaysai Reddy said that although CUAP was in its second year of operation, the institution is functioning without proper infrastructure and academic staff. TDP MP Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar also said that the university did not have permanent faculty. On Friday, Suresh Kodikunnil said in the Lok Sabha, “As of July 2018, a total of 12 central universities out of 14 have more than 75% vacancies of professors, while 2 of the universities, the vacancy is 100%.”
With ad hoc faculty often being underpaid, and universities in AP including Andhra University also having a large number of vacant posts, proper teaching staff is a big concern for higher education institutions in the state.
Nageswara Rao said that the teaching staff at CTU is also temporary and that the hiring of permanent faculty is also part of the DPR for the university. Currently, both universities do not have a permanent VC. For CUAP, University of Hyderabad is the mentor university, with Apparao Podile acting as the VC. For CTU, Andhra University is the mentor university.
According to the bill, “Apart from being focused to the tribal education, the Central Tribal University shall carry out all educational and other activities like any other Central University.” This includes the reservation policy for tribal students.
Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar had called CTU “a big boost to the education of tribal students”, and added that the university would provide them greater access to higher education. Yet, CTU continues to provide only a 7.5% quota for ST students.
Several activists have been demanding 50% reservation for tribal students in CTU. Speaking to TNM earlier, Nageswara Rao has said that the MHRD had assured that an amendment would be made in the bill before being passed so as to allow 50% reservation for Scheduled Tribes. On being asked about the lack of the provision in the bill now passed, he said that making an exception to the central university reservation norms would need a Constitutional amendment, which again the MHRD has promised to carry out.
While there is a precedent of having 50% seats reserved for SC/ST students in central universities like North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, and Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU), Lucknow, these universities were sanctioned through Acts with special provisions.
For instance, the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University Act, 1994, specifies one of the objectives of the university as paying ''special attention to the promotion of educational and economic interests and welfare of the people in general, and of members belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in particular, by providing adequate percentage of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”
As Dr Dilip K Jauhar, Research Associate at the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies and Translation, University of Hyderabad had pointed out earlier, the word ‘adequate’ means over and beyond the norm of 7.5% reservation for ST and 15% for SC.
While the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2019 specifies taking “additional measures for paying special attention to the tribal centric higher education and research, including art, culture and customs,” there continues to be no provision for ‘adequate’ representation of tribal communities at CTU.
While discussing the bill, YSRCP MP Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayulu reportedly said that more funds need to be allocated to the Eklavya schools in tribal areas so that the students who eventually go to the tribal university have a strong foundation. Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) are meant to cater to tribal students and are set up in blocks with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons.