Jammu University Still a long way to go

Rajan Gandhi
JU has to its credit being first Indian ISO 9001:2000 certified university , NAAC A+ accredited by UGC, 51st ranked university and overall 77th ranked by NIRF. But this game of rankings is too deceptive to hide the real state of affairs of JU on ground and the more one digs the more comes out with serious issues pertaining to students and university affairs.
JU faces space constraint with no alternative right now, only an area of 118.78 acres at new campus and 10.5 acres at old campus which is too less as compared to other universities like Kurukshetra University 473 acres, PU Chandigarh 550 acres, GNDU Amritsar 500 acres and even our Kashmir University 263 acres. The initial projected land included adjacent army land as well as land opposite university where many government departments have offices right now and interestingly present Baba Saheb Ambedkar road was part of the university land as per original site plan. Leave alone army even government departments are in no mood to vacate university land, as a result, expansion of university is stalled right now. With little space inside campus, no new department, no new hostel despite acute shortage of hostel accommodation, no public utilities like parking – wash rooms, multi-utility shops or for that matter expansion of existing departments is next to impossible. Despite different governments at the helm of affairs, no serious effort has been done on this front and even university seems to have surrendered to this issue though occasional murmurs are heard during meeting with Chancellor but now it’s more of routine affair rather than pressing the issue to resolve it. More interesting is the fact that university has handed over the administrative building also at old university campus to state government despite its space crunch. At one point of time, university was thinking of starting satellite campus in Jammu itself but that too whimpered out with passage of time, as such right now, no plan, no vision on this most important aspect of JU for future expansion. Even General Zorawar Singh auditorium has become a bane instead of boon as it has become nerve centre for every activity of Jammu, right from swearing in to inaugurations to school functions resulting in holidays to lock downs or distractions at the cost of academic activities.
Despite ISO certified, NAAC A+, NIRF 51st ranking JU is marred by numerous shortcomings which are not in compliance to its status as per its rankings. JU does not have its own Mail Server as such students don’t get any updated personalized information regarding notices, assignments, date sheets and results, meaning least usage of digital infrastructure. No integrated examination platform, no online admissions, no online papers or centralized control/reports through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as such difficulty in internal audit despite repeated reports on this by UGC and CAG. No biometric attendance for staff so no control on manpower meaning limited man/hour efficiency, only 70 percent faculty against sanctioned strength with direct implications on academics and research work and consequently withdrawal from many projects/ research work or inordinate delays in their completion. CAG in its last report on JU, pointed out that of the 33 research projects undertaken, only three got completed, while there was a time overrun of one to three years in respect to 14 projects, there was no data available in respect to nine of remaining 16 projects and three of the research projects were left midway. The situation was no better even in monitoring the research programme as out of 554 scholars registered for PhD, only 306 scholars submitted their thesis till stipulated time. Of the remaining 248 scholars while 241 were yet to submit their thesis, the registration of seven scholars was cancelled. The worst had been that of the 306 scholars who had submitted their thesis, the work of only 258 had been accepted, while those of 48 received two months to five years back had been pending approval as per the report. How many outside state scholars are doing PhD right now at JU and the answer will be none. With few placement opportunities PhD scholars are leaving in between for the sake of even lab assistant job which depict the sorry state of our tall claims. Even for simple UG courses first preference of Jammu students is other universities like DU, Shimla, Bengaluru, PU etc and all this is very well reflected by falling cut off in the PG admissions year after year which is testimony to lack of confidence in NAAC A+ accreditation of JU. Jammu Cluster University has started various integrated relevant courses which are as per today’s industry trends as such it further dissuades meritorious students to join JU for PG courses as no such courses have been offered by JU.
Last CAG report pointed out while there were delays ranging from 23 to 64 days in declaration of results in respect of UG examinations, these ranged between 11 to 274 days in respect of PG examinations. Even revision of results after revaluation was very high indicating lack of proper supervision in evaluation of answer scripts. Of the 8,631 applications for revaluation in PG courses, 43 percent students were declared successful and 11 percent candidate already declared successful improved their percentage. Thankfully now PG exams are choice based credit system but that too without robust mechanism in place. The audit scrutiny revealed that of the 64,016 certificates to be issued, 40,570 certificates (63 per cent) with respect to graduate, post-graduate, B.Ed and engineering courses were not issued on time and 13,468 certificates (21 per cent) of similar courses were issued after delay of 11 to 28 months. The percentage utilization of examination forms ranged between 52 and 80 which indicated printing and procurement of examination forms far in excess of requirements.
University failed to set up Astronomy Department despite the release of Rs15 lakh by UGC and ultimately had to refund the money along with penal interest. JU failed to introduce skill oriented education at college level so as to enable students to get into professional fields. With no pooled auto or e-rickshaw inside campus, the distance from Bikram Chowk to Distance Education which is approximately 3 kms is obviously too much to cover on foot for anyone in summers as students include pregnant ladies as well but it is of no concern for JU. Regarding shops within Campus – same vendors are running the shops since their inception (e.g. book shop), if legal issues are there why University is not able to resolve them, how many legal cases are pending even JU does not know as per their Self Study Report, preference for certain lawyers representing JU, repeated changes in legal cell of JU thereby no continuity with lawyers is another issue of concern.
In sexual harassment cases not a single exemplary action has been taken against the erring faculty and surprisingly some of them are still holding significant posts which show the least concern of authorities on this sensitive issue. University campus is still not under CCTV surveillance. Seven off site campuses lack permanent faculty as such compromise in academic quality and almost no hostel even after ten years of their inception tell the factual position. Surrender of grants year after year due to unnecessary hassles by finance department with the resultant lack of initiative by departments to go for procurement is another major issue, the percentage utilization of the available funds ranged 65% to 81% as per CAG report. On the recommendations of a Parliament Committee a common format of accounts has to be maintained for all the autonomous bodies but JU had not prepared its annual accounts since its inception as per 2008 CAG report despite CAG report of 2002 also pointing out the same; consequently the true financial position of the university could not be ascertained. Cash Books in respect of corpus fund, payment seat fund and development fund/infrastructure-auditorium fund, ledger accounts were not maintained in the prescribed form. Bank reconciliation had not been conducted and asset register had not been maintained as revealed by CAG report. Same contractors getting contracts for decades now despite tender system raise too many questions and interestingly these JU contractors have their own association as well showing the clear nexus in deciding tenders. Independent Vigilance Officer is another major issue to be resolved yet as it raises question mark on transparency effort of authorities. No official from finance department of university has been taken to task for the surrendered grants year after year as such least improvement on this front.
Bulk of contractual employees recruited a decade ago are a financial liability as university is finding it difficult to adjust them as permanent employees even till date. Saga of mess of B.Ed Colleges associated with JU is well known even two colleges on same plot of land got recognition. Lack of round the clock canteen facilities inside campus specifically during examination days, lack of public utilities for parents or any visitor throughout the campus are few other issues which may be too small for authorities but of significant importance for students and university.
Reasons are many as year after year, VC after VC things have been kept under the carpet for too long and resultant after–effects are quite visible but authorities are only self patting themselves in the basking glory of rankings which it seems is more virtual than practical as PU Chandigarh (20TH Ranked), GNDU (59TH Ranked) are few NAAC A accredited universities with far reaching acceptance and preference PAN India. Even gap between number one ranked (score 82.16) and our JU (score 43.19) is too wide. With former VCs publicly accusing each other on social platforms for the present state of affairs of JU, status of university is compromised. The Central Government right now is focusing on Jammu issues, our Governor is proactively taking decisions in the interest of students and with new VC on hot seat, one hopes all these issues are resolved at the earliest and JU achieves pinnacle of academic excellence at the earliest.
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