Teachers protest DU order to cut non-salary expenses to 50%

Teachers protest DU order to cut non-salary expenses to 50%
A section of DU teachers argue it will impact the quality of teaching-learning, research and infrastructural development in the university. Abhay Anand | Jun 18, 2020 - 6:58 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI:The Delhi University administration has written to all heads of department and deans to put austerity measures in place. The departments have been asked to cut all spending outside the categories of salaries, fellowships and pensions, to 50 percent of the 2020-21 Budget Estimates for recurring expenditure.

This, argued a section of teachers, will impact the quality of teaching-learning, research and expansion of the university that must also fully implement the quota for the economically weaker sections (EWS) introduced last year.

dufeAccording to a May 29 letter from Delhi University's acting finance officer, this strain on resources was caused by the higher education regulator, University Grants Commission, not releasing a section of funds in the last financial year, 2019-20. “University Grants Commission has not allocated or released any additional grant which was projected in the revised estimates for the year 2019-2020 under the head of 'non-salary' (recurring expenses),” says the letter.

In consequence, the departments have to be thrifty. "All expenditure under the recurring head...shall be regulated in a manner that the expenditure shall not exceed 50% of the allocation made under Budget Estimates 2020-21," says the May 29 letter. This will not affect salaries, fellowships or pensions.

In this, the department must follow the "Guidelines on Expenditure Management- Economic Measures, Rationalization of Expenditure and Measures for Augmentation of Revenue", issued by the Centre in October 2014. The guidelines advise cutting expenditure on seminars, workshops and conferences; restrict domestic and international travel; and impose "a ban on creation of Plan and non-Plan posts".

Teachers criticise

A section of Delhi University (DU) teachers has criticised this move. The teachers argue it will impact the quality of teaching-learning, research and infrastructural development in the university.

“The university needs additional grants and posts on account of increased intake of EWS students, whereas it inflicts fund cut,” says a statement issued by Academics For Action And Development (AAD), an association of DU teachers. The austerity measures will also impact DU’s plan for purchasing books and journals, lab expenses and other repair and maintenance and academic expenses, they said.

As per the AAD, the faculties and departments of the university are already getting less than what they have asked for and this communication will cause further financial squeeze and result in an increase in fees. Their statement said: “The fee hike takes higher education away from the socially and economically weaker sections of the students like SC, ST, OBC, PwD and EWS. The efforts to augment the revenues by the university will lead to further privatisation, contractualisation and fee-hike.”

The Academic Council and Executive Council (AC and EC) members have demanded that this letter not be implemented. It must first be placed before the Finance Committee and Executive Council for their approval, they demand. “The need for increasing the fund allocation should be effectively communicated to UGC and the Ministry of HRD,” said AAD.

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