Kannada University in the doldrums as fund flow stops
Lack of funding from the government has hit salaries of permanent and guest faculty, besides fellowships and pensions
COVID-19 seems to have brought Kannada University, Hampi, almost to a standstill. While the teaching staff have not been paid for three months, the guest faculty has not been paid for 10 months now. Student fellowships, medical reimbursements and pensions have all stopped, bringing academic activity to a grinding halt.
Lack of funding from the government seems to be at the root of the present impasse, causing outrage among Kannada writers, activists and political opposition.
The university administration has been running pillar to post since May this year seeking grants from the government. S.C. Ramesh, Vice-Chancellor, had written to the State government giving a breakup of the administrative expenses, including salaries the university incurs every year, pegging it at ₹6 crore annually, seeking a grant.
“Unlike other universities, we do not have college affiliations and hence lack independent sources of revenue and are heavily dependent on government funding. Our publication division is a good source of revenue, which has also been hit by the pandemic,” explained Dr. Ramesh. However, the government has only allocated ₹50 lakh for development works for 2020-21 and only a part of it has been released till date. “There is absolutely no money to run the university,” he said.
While the State government has been regularly issuing grants in the range of ₹4 crore to ₹6 crore every year, there has been a decline in funding from 2018-19 which saw the government allocate only ₹1.5 crore, followed by ₹1 crore in 2019-20.
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah recently wrote to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, who also holds the finance portfolio, strongly condemning the lack of support for Kannada University. “It is shameful that your government doesn’t have money for knowledge development works in Kannada,” the letter stated, demanding immediate release of funds.
Deputy Chief Minister and Higher Education Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan told The Hindu that the department was closely following up with the Finance Department and funds would be released soon. “We are also arranging for ₹10 crore to be released to the university as one-time grant from the District Mineral Fund of Ballari district,” he said. DMF is a fund for socio-economic development for mining-affected districts.
Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) recently ran a Twitter campaign to “save Kannada University.” The campaign also highlighted how the rot ran deeper at the university. The university was downgraded from A+ to B by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in 2019, indicating the general slide in the quality of academic work. “Over the last few years, several administrative issues have cropped up at the university impacting the academic work as well. For instance, there has been a centralisation of programmes under the Vice-Chancellor, robbing the departments of academic freedom,” a senior professor at the university said.