Mumbai: With close to half of teaching positions at the state's four agriculture universities lying vacant for the last four years, the universities are pushing for more autonomy and powers to appoint faculty and spend money according to their requirement.
On Wednesday, the vice-chancellors (VCs) of all four universities came calling to the state Governor and Chancellor of all four institutes Ramesh Bais, to discuss various administrative issues being faced by them. The most prominent demand made by the VCs was that the state adopt the Centre's model act to govern agriculture universities, which would give the VCs more control over the affairs of the varsities, revealed an official from the state agriculture department.
The model act was developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under the Union Ministry of Agriculture and can be adopted by the states. This model act, which is not enforceable and remains advisory in nature, first came out in 1966 and has subsequently undergone various revisions, the latest being in March this year.
However, the state has its own Maharashtra Agricultural Universities (Krishi Vidyapeeths) Act in place since 1983 to govern its agri universities located in Dapoli (Ratnagiri), Rahuri (Ahmednagar), Parbhani and Akola. The Maharashtra Council of Agriculture Education and Research (MCAER) is the apex body to coordinate and take various key decisions pertaining to varsities, including approvals for expenditures. Maharashtra has the highest number of government-run agri universities - four - while most of the other states have only one.
"In the current system, the vice-chancellor doesn't have much rights, especially when it comes to spending funds - they have an expenditure cap of Rs 3-5 lakh. They need to go through the government and MCAER for higher expenses, which are approved only after the universities justify them. The VCs find themselves constrained by it," said the official, adding that the model act would give the VCs powers to make financial and policy decisions.
While a revised agriculture law has been proposed by incorporating certain aspects of ICAR's model act in 2019, it is yet to see light of the day, revealed the official.
Among the issues raised by the VCs in front of the governor was the filling of vacant posts in universities. As of now, out of 6,842 approved teaching and non-teaching posts (excluding Group 'D' posts) across institutes, 2,912 are vacant, shows data from MCAER. The situation is more severe when it comes to teaching posts, as 1,243 out of 2,638, or 47%, are vacant. The last recruitment took place back in August 2019.
Following the representation from VCs, Bais directed the government officials to take the necessary measures to increase the spending limit for construction work and the purchase of equipment. He also asked them to resolve other issues in order to strengthen the agri universities, said a statement from Raj Bhavan. However, there is no clarity on the implementation of either the model act or the revised state act, revealed the official.