The Ministry of Human Resource Development’s austerity plans for the educational institutions to cut wasteful expenditure related to setting up of infrastructure, conducting seminars, travel and purchase of books, among others, has received a mixed response from the country’s premier institutions namely the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). “These circulars are not required as we are already practising these measures. The ministry has issued the directive and we will have to see what expenses can be cut and to what extent,” said IIM-Ahmedabad Director Samir Barua. The institute has a world class library with resources that are expensive. “We need to maintain databases and subscriptions for journals,books etc. The subscription prices go up every year because if the dollar depreciates, then the rupee becomes more costly,” he added.
The ministry’s decision revolves around a 10 per cent cut in professional services, advertising and publicity expenditure, domestic and foreign travel, office expenses and other running charges excluding salary and pension.
On the other hand, Devi Singh, Director of IIM-Lucknow says that the ministry’s step is the fall out of the general austerity drive happening and it will not affect the institution much. “There is nothing new this year as this is a standard letter that we get every year. It is a little stronger this year and we will see what cuts we can do. We’ll take the letter seriously and cut on the wasteful expenditure as per the advisory,” said IIT-Delhi’s director Surendra Prasad.
The directive asks the autonomous institutes and all statutory bodies under the HRD ministry to curtail travel by taxis and bring down power bills besides the purchase of new vehicles has also been banned. “We have cut down on our travel expenses down to one-tenth and do our meetings through teleconferencing and video conferencing. These cost reductions will actually help us in spending more money on academics. Nothing related to academics, exams, teaching or research is being cut,” said Professor VN Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University.