For the last three months they’ve been battling for an increase in non-NET fellowship grant and staging protests outside the University Grants Commission (UGC). Now, students and research scholars from across the country have submitted a letter on behalf of #OccupyUGC to a review committee set up by the ministry of human resource development to look into the issue of non-NET fellowships.
The letter reiterates the demands of the protesting students against the UGC’s decision to scrap non-NET fellowships given to MPhil/PhD students by the UGC (a sum of Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 per month, respectively).
“It is a tragedy that the decision to scrap the non-NET fellowship was taken on October 7, 2015, by a committee that was in fact set up to increase the fellowship grant but decided to scrap the fellowship entirely. Undergraduates, postgraduates and teachers have joined the protests, including students from Ambedkar University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, South Asian University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Indira Gandhi National Open University etc. Students outside Delhi in Jadavpur University, North-Eastern Hill University, Central University of Gujarat, Hyderabad University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai University and Panjab University etc have also protested against the same,” says the letter.
The committee is expected to submit its report later this month. “When you pick up your pen to finalise the report of the MHRD-constituted review committee, let it not be a report that will further advocate the process of steady fund-cuts in education. The production of high-quality research is a concern that we all share,” says Shehla Rashid, vice president, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union.
The non-NET fellowship is the lifeline for research scholars in Central universities. “However, the current amount of fellowship is by no means enough. It is not enough to pay for even the mess bills or the photocopy charges of students. Other fellowships such as Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Junior Research Fellowship, Maulana Azad National Fellowship, etc were recently hiked by about Rs 8,000 in view of the rising inflation. The UGC had constituted a committee to consider enhancement of the amount given as non-NET fellowship and in a most unfortunate manner, the UGC scrapped the fellowship, leaving us in a situation where we have to fight for the same,” adds Rashid.
The review committee has been asked to look for criteria for awarding the non-NET fellowships. “We argue that the only criteria for awarding the fellowships should be enrolment in research in a state or Central university. We also demand that the non-NET fellowships should be continued without the introduction of unnecessary exclusionary criteria such as merit and income,” she says. The protesting students have started a nationwide signature campaign that will go on till February 15.