Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Backseat for religious studies at Guru Nanak Dev University

Research work in the religious arena has taken a hit at the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) here, as six out of eight chairs set up at the varsity have become non-functional.

The university has eight chairs-Guru Gobind Singh Chair, Baba Budha Chair, Guru Ravidass Chair, Sant Kabir Chair, Bhagat Namdev Chair, Hazrat Mian Mir Chair, Dr BR Ambedkar Chair and Namdhari Guru Ram Singh Chair. Out of these, only the Guru Ravidass Chair and Namdhari Guru Ram Singh Chair are functional. The rest have stopped functioning.

Out of the two functional chairs too, only Namdhari Guru Ram Singh Chair finds mentions in the annual report of the university for 2009. Interestingly, seven of these chairs find mention in the Budget Estimates 2011-12 of the university as funds have been shown to be allocated to them. Namdhari Guru Ram Singh Chair has been allocated Rs 14.74 lakh, Guru Ravidass Chair Rs 13.13 lakh, Sant Kabir Chair Rs 11.23 lakh, while Guru Gobind Singh Chair, Dr BR Ambedkar Chair and Hazrat Mian Mir Chair have been allocated Rs 12.44 lakh each. For Baba Budha Chair, Dr Jagir Singh Randhawa, an NRI, had donated Rs 25 lakh for setting up the corpus fund in 2002. The chair functioned for sometime before becoming non-functional.

Earlier this year, Bhagat Puran Singh Chair ceased to exist in the university after the All India Pingalwara Charitable Society sought a refund of the corpus of Rs 25 lakh, contending that the Chair had remained almost non-functional since the time it was set up more than six years back.

Former Vice-Chancellor GNDU, SP Singh said if there is a sense of commitment, it is not difficult to run these chairs. “The existing staff can be given additional charge of these chairs. Besides, even if each of these chairs organise a seminar annually it would not cost much. It all depends on commitment as well as the policy of the university,” he said, adding that the varsity should have at least fulfilled the commitment of the chair with an endowment fund like Baba Budha Chair and Bhagat Puran Singh Chair.

On the other hand, GNDU Registrar Inderjeet Singh said the university doesn’t have enough resources to run these chairs. “Our priority here is the salary of staff and running the university smoothly. Our expenditure budget has gone up to Rs 100 crore after the new pay structure came into being. We receive only Rs 36 crore as grant from the government. We have to raise the rest with the help of our own resources,” he said.

The registrar said it was difficult to run these chairs unless a special grant is given. As far as the chairs with an endowment fund are concerned, he said at least Rs 1 crore is required as as corpus to meet the annual expenditure of a chair.

Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service, Amritsar, June 21

What is a Chair?

A chair set up in a university department in the name of an eminent person is aimed at highlighting various aspects of his/her life. The focus is on carrying out research work and documenting the contribution of that individual towards welfare of society.

A chair is either sustained on an ad hoc grant from the government or by an endowment fund facilitated by an institution or a philanthropist. For instance, the Bhagat Puran Singh Chair was set up with the help of a corpus of Rs 25 lakh by the All India Pingalwara Charitable Society. In GNDU, seven out of the eight chairs were announced by the state government, while the remaining chair-Baba Budha Chair -came up with an endowment fund.

The setting up of these chairs may be driven by political considerations or personal sentiments.

Six out of eight chairs set up are non-functional
Authorities blame lack of funds

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