Staff of University of Madras demand State government to provide grants to the institution

They went on a daylong fast and urged the Higher Education Department to solve the university’s financial issues

Published - February 24, 2024 10:38 am IST - CHENNAI 

Teaching and non-teaching staff of University of Madras protesting on Friday.

Teaching and non-teaching staff of University of Madras protesting on Friday. | Photo Credit: B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

The faculty and non-teaching staff of University of Madras went on a daylong fast demanding that the State government provide the grants due to the institution.

On February 8, the Income Tax (I-T) Department sent a notice stating that the university’s bank accounts and 37 of its fixed deposit accounts were frozen as the institution owed the department ₹424 crore as I-T arrears for three years. The university had issued dozens of cheques that could not be credited.

For the past seven years, the State government has denied the university its regular grants citing objections raised by the Local Fund Audit office. The university has been struggling every month to pay salaries and has not paid pension benefits to its retired faculty since 2018.

A total of ₹90 crore is outstanding as grants, whereas the audit objection is only to the tune of ₹6 crore, said P.K. Abdul Rahiman, secretary, Teachers’ Collective at the University. “The Higher Education Department has a responsibility to figure out a mechanism to deal with audit objections. The university’s staff and ultimately students cannot be collectively penalised,” he added.

At the protest held at the Chepauk campus of the university, speakers pointed out that every decision approved by the Syndicate had the approval of the ex-officio members appointed by the various government departments. The current situation could have a cascading effect on the students as well, since examination-related work is in full swing currently, which means the evaluators are waiting to be paid their remuneration. Any delay in that could affect results and admission besides the students’ future, the staff said.

The university, which received A++ status last year, allowing it to introduce new courses without the approval of the University Grants Commission, functions with about 43% of its sanctioned strength. As much as 57% of faculty positions and an equal percentage of non-teaching staff posts remain vacant.

“Guest lecturers and contract labour for non-teaching faculty is draining the university. The permanent staff’s salary would come from the government. But because of guest lecturers and temporary staff, the university’s financial outflow has increased,” Mr. Rahiman said. Meanwhile, university officials said they were in discussion with the I-T Department to resolve the issue.

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