Saturday, November 27, 2010

On Endowment Funds Or The Lack Of Them in Indian Traditional Set-ups

The University where I'm employed is the historical Jamia Millia Islamia, founded during the Indian freedom struggle, a traditional Indian educational set-up with a modern urban, New Delhi face. A good mix. I'm sure university education in India, by and large, remains affordable to the middle classes. But India is so huge that there are a large number of poor and displaced and underprivileged people-- a lot among the muslims too. Now, let us look at 'traditional courses' in my university, Jamia Millia Islamia, which is situated in New Delhi, the Indian capital. What does a student normally pay as fees (in undergraduate courses in Humanities, including major-honors courses) for the entire year? Usually, Rs. 4000-5000 per year. If you add the cost of fees and if you add books, stationery, you are probably talking about Rs. 10,000-12,000 per year. What does the Indian government give as bank returns per year? About 8% per annum. So, an amount of Rs. 200,000 (or Rs. 300,000) could actually lead to a small scholarship for one poor student. Now, I'm employed as an Assistant Professor and  a person employed in my capacity would start at Rs. 35,000 (or so) and would be paid around Rs. 60,000 (at the top end of the scale for an Assistant Professor). Then, there's the Associate Professor, who's paid more and then we have the Professor (or the 'full' professor), who certainly draws anywhere above Rs.90,000 and could go up to Rs. 110,000. Of course, these are monthly gross salary figures. There are taxes as well. 

I'm 39 years old and I have not been a 'die-hard' careerist. But if you are a careerist, these days, you become a full professor at a younger age.  Earlier, you became a full professor at 52-55 but these days, you could do so even at 45. Or younger. By the time, you are 45 or 50, you would be settled in life with many things. And at 55, you would certainly be settled.

So, my 'difficult' question comes next. (I do ask difficult questions all the time.)

It would be very very interesting to find out how many academics in the top bracket spend money on endowment funds in India? Perhaps, they may do it in IITs (the Indian Institutes of Technology). I don't know if there is such readily available data that tells you something to the effect. But yes, there's the RTI (Right To Information Act) which allows you as an Indian citizen to seek information from public bodies. This is not meant as a criticism of anyone, any individual or set of people. But this is a general note with the objective of provoking people to think over issues. 

If I sought such data from my university, it would prove my hunch beyond doubt that most senior academics in the set-up do not believe or bother about or do not make efforts about setting up endowments. Or they don't think that something like this could be done. Or some people could turn around and get back as a backlash and say, well, I'm doing so-and-so and who are hell are you and take a professional issue personally, where no personal hurt was never intended because I have not even thought about any single individual or set of individuals while I have written this piece.

I haven't funded an endowment yet, so, I guess people would turn around and say, you have no bloody right to write this blog post but I know that I did approach a senior official of my university in the past to inquire about setting up a small endowment. But then my finances didn't allow me to do so. The idea, however, is firmly entrenched in my mind. And would remain there. So, I would think up of doing something to that effect in the future. It could be two or three years hence. But it's there on the horizon.

I would like to thank the Vice-Chancellor of my University for setting up an Endowment Fund. Great job. I hope this post will make some more people chip in with whatever they can. This is the way to go, folks. The way to go is magnanimity and sense of doing something for society.

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