According to Nikhil Gupta, national representative of Research Scholars of India, an association leading the petition, the MHRD had promised regular revisions in 2015. Gupta is a research scholar at the Centre for Biomedical Research, Lucknow. Aditya Chandel, a PhD student at IIT Madras, agreed. “The current emoluments make it very difficult for us to survive in big metropolitan cities. Some researchers get their stipends after every three or six months. How are we to pay for their tuition every semester, and complete their projects, besides taking care of their living expenses?”
Inflation alone – if not other forces – is driving up tuition fees, hostel charges, mess charges and travel expenses. Students are also expected to bear the costs of attending conferences out of their pockets, Gupta and other scholars have said.
After over 400 research scholars held a silent protest holding placards outside the Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi, the DST officials have announced to set-up a new committee which will ensure regular disbursal and revision of fellowship funds. The committee, said the officials, will also ensure that the stipend of researchers is increased at regular intervals and ensure smooth disbursal of research funds.
Research scholars from all across Indian educational institutes including IITs and IISc were on a hunger strike demanding a hike in their stipend, timely disbursal of funds and an annual inflation-based increment on their stipends. Over 40 research scholars went on a day-long hunger strike on December 21. Other institutes also held protests in their campuses, IISc students created a human chain and many ran a social media campaign #HikeResearchFellowship. Moreover, the research scholars also sent over 5,000 signatures to PMO, DST, UGC and MHRD. Over 400 postcard stating students’ demands also reached PMO last week.
The researcher scholars met secretary, DST Ashutosh Sharma and adviser, scientist, DST, A Mukhopadhyay. During the meeting, the officials assured the research scholars that the stipend will be eventually increased. Sharma told researchers, “The stipend will be increased and an official notification regarding this will be issued soon.” Officials also ensured a “reasonable percentage” hike of the stipend.
The researchers have been demanding to double their stipend which is currently Rs 25,000 for JRF fellows and Rs 28,000 for SRF fellows to be increased to Rs 50,00 for JRF and Rs 56,000 for SRF scholars.
Research scholar at IIT Delhi, Vickey Nandal said, “We will wait for the official notification till mid-January. If our demands are not accepted, we will hold protest again and at a larger scale, this time it will be outside MHRD.”
Student Delegation also met Hon’ble Union Minister for HRD Mr Prakash Javadekar on 26th December 2018:
Taking the Stipend Hike Movement at a new level, Students’ representatives are approaching the respective authorities to put the demands of stipend hike, periodic increment and timely disbursal forward. On 26th December students from IISc, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, JNU, Delhi University, AIIMS and few other research institutes met Mr Prakash Javadekar, Hon’ble Union Minister for HRD.
The members of the delegation raised the following primary demands:
1. Fellowship hike by at least 80%.
2. The periodic increment in the fellowship.
3. Regular and timely disbursal of the stipend.
4. Setting up of the Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (GRMS) to address the problems that Research Scholars face in their student life cycle.
The minister assured us the following:
1. A significant hike in the research stipend soon.
2. Provision of periodic increment will be taken into consideration.
3. Timely disbursal of the stipend will be implemented.
4. Setting up of GRMS (or such channel) will be taken into consideration.
Apart from this, the discussion spanned over the need of stipend hike with an adequate increment along with the need for improvement in the overall research ecosystem.