Principal Correspondent :
Colleges urge State Government to make available the bill discounting facility
Colleges of all streams in Maharashtra are waiting to get their scholarship dues of over Rs 2,000 crore from the State Government. Shockingly, the amount to be disbursed to some of the colleges is pending since 2011-12. This has put colleges into trouble as they are finding it difficult to pay salaries to staff. Meanwhile, Vidarbha Un-Aided Engineering College Managements’ Association has urged the State Government to make available the Bill Discounting facility for payment of tuition fee scholarship amount from nationalised banks. All professional colleges such as Engineering, Architecture, Pharmacy, Medical, MBA, etc., run by self-financed institutes (Private) are facing severe financial crises for last 5 to 6 years due to delay by Central and State governments in disbursing scholarship and freeship amounts to colleges, institutes. Some of the colleges have their scholarship amount pending since 2010-11. Similarly, majority of the colleges have their pendency of scholarship and freeships for more than 2 years.
The amount pending with the Government of individual colleges, institutes is always very huge in crores of rupees. It becomes very difficult for all professional colleges to make the salaries of the teaching and non-teaching staff on time, deposit of the PF and TDS deductions on time, meet other expenses such as payment of electricity bills, advance to staff, etc. In majority of the institutes, the payment of salaries is pending since last 6 to 8 months or even more. Earlier, there was a system of providing ad hoc (advance) payment of scholarship and freeship to the institutes by the State Government. The State Government used to provide 25% of amount (Considering last one year scholarship and freeship) as ad hoc payment so that the colleges/institutes should run properly and can make payment of salaries to their staff on time. Though the Government Resolution (GR) in this regard of Adhoc arrangement of payment of scholarship amount as an advance is still in existence but not in execution. The State Government has not made any provision in the MahaDBT online scholarship portal for such ad hoc advances. Also, the amount of scholarship and freeship is not being paid on time and getting delayed for 2 years or so. This has worsened the day to day financial management for all the colleges.
The Central and State governments have kept education as second last priority on their respective agenda which is a very serious issue and the matter of shaping good career of each and every child and youth is on stake, the association alleged. The association appealed to the Government to either start continuing the earlier ad hoc system of advance payment of scholarship and freeship and make necessary changes in MahaDBT online scholarship portal accordingly. The association has also pointed out, “Provide the facility of "Bill Discounting" to us with the nationalised banks towards the bills generated from Social Welfare Department, Tribal Department and DTE of all the approved scholarship application forms at the district level itself so that the colleges get immediate amount on the certified bills produced to the respective banks by the colleges. The association suggested that the State Government should pledge the Sovereign Guarantee with the banks on behalf of the colleges and whenever the State Government releases the amount, the same shall be credited in the respective banks from where the scholarship, freeships bills are discounted. The Bank interest for the duration should be born by the State Government. If the State Government agrees for the ‘Bill Discounting’ scheme but doesn’t agrees for the payment of Bank interest, then in that case the Government should include the Bank interest as an interest component while fixing the tuition and other fees by the Fee Regulating Authority (FRA) while deciding the fees for the coming session on the basis of submission of ‘Interest Certificate’ issued by the Banks to the Colleges/Institutes towards interest paid which is to be attached in the fee proposal. Recently, Principal Secretary of the Department of the Other Backward Classes Welfare, has issued a circular for its inability to pay entire amount of pending since 2010-11 and further for the coming session of 2021-22. According to the circular, the State Government can make budgetary provision of only 25% of amount for the pending and new scholarships and freeships proposals due to the less collection of taxes and levies because of COVID-19 pandemic.
This decision of the State Government will put several colleges/institutes into closure or permanent shutdown. Thus putting the teaching and non teaching staff to jobless state. General Secretary of the association, Avinash Dorsatwar, said that the only solution left for the colleges is to discount their scholarship bills from their respective national banks to which the MahaDBT online is linked. The banks can immediately release at least 80% of the amount of the scholarship bill to all such colleges. The association is planning to meet Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar under the leadership of the President of Association Adv Abhijit Wanjari soon.