Run a college on 25k a month? That's what Kottayam's IIRBS is trying to do and failing

The  Institute of Integrated programmes and Research in Basic Sciences is allegedly facing a massive fund crunch. The VC of the MG University says that it can be rectified if they merely write to him
The faculty haven't been receiving their salaries for the past six months allegedly
The faculty haven't been receiving their salaries for the past six months allegedly

Let us explore the possibility of running a research institute with a budget of Rs 25,000 a month. There are a few clauses. The expenses that have to be met with this amount includes the salary of the guest faculty, cost of laboratory equipment, chemicals required for experiments, water and electricity charges and other maintenance expenditure. The situation may sound ridiculous to anyone. But according to students and faculty, this is what is happening in the Mahatma Gandhi University's Institute of Integrated Programmes and Research in Basic Sciences (IIRBS) in Kottayam, since February 2019.

The students and guest faculty here allege a massive fund crunch and the former has now written to the HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, asking him to immediately look into the matter. The students claim that the faculty haven't received their salaries for the past six months. They also say that since the institute doesn't have any permanent office staff and hence, the students are forced to do the work.

"We only get Rs 25,000 every month from the university for the overall running of the Institute," says Albert Chris, a II year integrated Dual Degree BSc – MSc Interdisciplinary Programme student. "This is really difficult. It doesn't suffice to pay the faculty and buy the required chemicals and equipment," he says. "This wasn't the case before. But now, the university is alleging that we are using a lot of money and has massively reduced the budget. The institute doesn't even have a proper water and electricity connection," he says. 

Albert also says that a group of students had met the university Vice-Chancellor Dr Sabu Thomas and raised the issue with him. "The VC had agreed initially to increase the budget to Rs 5 Lakh per month. But right then, the university's Syndicate had passed a Bill that said that us students have to take care of the guest faculty's travel allowances," he says. The institute, until now, has no permanent faculty, except its director Dr I Ibnusaud.

We spoke to a guest faculty at the institute who also had to say something similar. For someone who's been working in IIRBS for the past six years, he hasn't been receiving his salary since January. "The syndicate says that we shouldn't draw more than Rs 25,000 a month. It is impossible to run a research institute with this less money," he says. "The reason given to us was an imposition of a financial restriction. But that can't be on the cost of running an institute," he says adding that they haven't received any positive response from the authorities.

The university's VC however, said that Rs 25,000 is the amount that every school under the university can use without any permission and for more funds, the director just has to write a letter to him. "This institute has been enjoying unlimited funding for years. But this decision was criticised by the university's Senate," says Thomas, who took charge a month back. "For more funds, IIRBS has to take permission. For this, the director only has to write an application. We'll grant enough money," he adds.

Thomas also says that he is looking forward to solving the salary issue soon. "Any guest faculty who hasn't received the money just has to submit the bill. I'll use my powers as the VC to grant funds," he says. "I'm working on giving the institute a special status. This has to be discussed and so many problems are to be addressed. The water and electricity issue will be solved in a month," he assures.

IIRBS was set up in 2008, as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the university. Of the 50 students who have graduated from IIRBS, 16 have cleared GATE and 15 have cleared the CSIR exams.

Repeated attempts to contact the institute director did not yield a response. This copy will be updated once he comments on this issue.

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