Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami faces criticism from several sections who believe that his government in the state is a proxy of the BJP in the Centre. Unlike his predecessor Jayalalithaa, EPS has more or less been meek in his response to the Centre on matters of policy. But on Saturday, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister took a stand against the Centre’s draft bill to scrap the University Grants Commission (UGC), and replace it with a different body.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, EPS said, “I write this letter to bring to your kind attention the apprehensions of the Government of Tamil Nadu with regard to the draft Bill on Higher Education Commission of India prepared by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Ministry has sought suggestions from all stakeholders.”
Stating that the TN government felt that the UGC, which has both regulatory and financial powers, is functioning well, and that there was no need to disband it and to replace it with the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) which has only regulatory powers, EPS said, “In the now proposed draft bill, the financial powers are proposed to be transferred to MHRD, Government of India or some other body. The Government of Tamil Nadu has strong reservations and apprehensions in this regard, as our experience of sanction of funds objectively based on merits to Tamil Nadu has not been very positive by various ministries of Government of India.”
“Further, if this financial power is taken over by MHRD, we apprehend that the funding pattern would change from 100% funding to 60:40 ratio between Government of India and the State Government,” he added.
Making a case for the UGC to continue, EPS said, “The present system, where University Grants Commission is entrusted with the responsibilities of maintaining, monitoring and improving the standards of teaching and research in Higher Educational Institutions and also with the power of sanctioning funds under various schemes has been in vogue since 1956 without any complaints. The University Grants Commission has the required capacity for objective evaluation of the proposals received and sanction funds in a transparent manner. The financial powers are an additional enabling mechanism for University Grants Commission to ensure implementation of its recommendations.”
In June the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), announced that it had drafted a ‘Higher Education of Commission of India’ bill which would replace the University Grants Commission with a ‘Higher Education Commission.’ The Ministry had stated that the new body would focus on improving the standard of education.
The announcement was met with resistance from academicians, who reasoned that there was no need for the government to scrap the UGC, only to establish another body under the Centre.