Even though higher education bodies like the University Grants Commission (UGC) have taken steps to increase fellowship money to encourage research scholars, those receiving the grants want more.
This includes the non-National Eligibility Test (NET) fellowships. Currently, non-NET fellows get monthly grants of Rs. 5,000 (for the first two years) and Rs. 8,000 (for the next three years). Research students demand that this should be increased to Rs. 10,000 (for the first two years) and Rs. 16,000 (for the next three years).
Batting for more
Ravi Ranjan Choudhary, senior research fellow, Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been campaigning for an increase in the non-NET fellowship amount, says, “The non-NET fellowship is a scheme for financial support for bright research scholars, those who pursue research at Central universities and those who fail to avail fellowships from government sources (such as the Junior Research fellowship (JRF) by the UGC/Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship, Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship etc) and others. The increase in amount of non-NET fellowship is a relevant demand considering that the last hike was in 2009. The respective establishments must keep in mind that most of these scholars are from humble socio-economic backgrounds.
Pursuing research with limited grants poses a huge challenge for research scholars in Central universities.”
Scholars in other Central universities are also unhappy. Saket Bahuguna, research scholar at the department of linguistics, Delhi University, says: “We are among researchers from all over the country participating in a series of agitations. Non-NET fellowship grants which were given to all researchers have not been increased. This has left an overwhelming majority of researchers out of the benefit of increased fellowship.”
The hike in the non-NET research fellowships is demanded by scholars from all streams, including science and humanities. Currently, students in the science stream get Rs. 5,000 a month plus Rs. 10,000 as contingency annually while the contingency amount is Rs. 8,000 for humanities students.
For PhD students, the contingency amount is the same as that of MPhil students, but the monthly emolument is Rs. 8,000.
Praveen Singh, deputy dean, planning, Ambedkar University Delhi, says there should be an increase in not just the number, but also amount of non-UGC NET/Junior Research Fellowships.
“This applies more to social sciences and humanities where there are not too many options available to students pursuing research. Additionally, the fellowships that are available are insufficient. The result is that there are very few students who want to take up research as a career option in the future. Those who opt for it lose focus trying to find a non-fellowship route (like part or full-time jobs) to make ends meet,” adds Singh.
JRF increased, but…
The agitating students also met HRD minister Smriti Irani demanding an increase in JRF and senior research fellowship (SRF). As a result, JRF was increased to Rs. 25,000 and SRF to Rs. 28,000. Earlier, it was Rs. 16,000 and Rs. 18,000. “However, this hike has not been implemented smoothly. Different funding agencies are implementing the hike from different dates and there is no coordination between them. We are demanding that all funding agencies like the UGC, HRD ministry and Department of Science and Technology (DST) implement the hike uniformly from April 1, 2014,” says Bahuguna. The DST announced the hike in October 2014 and the UGC hiked it only in December 2014. However, a silver lining to the cloud was seen last week when the HRD ministry changed its decision to implement the 50% hike in JRF and SRF amount from February 1, 2015 instead of October 2014.
Another demand is for timely and regular disbursal of fellowships, which should be extended till the last year of PhD. “Students who pursue MPhil exhaust their fellowships when they are in the fourth year of PhD and want it to be extended to the last year of PhD as well,” adds Bahuguna.
Students say that the current amount disbursed through the fellowships is insufficient as they have to spend more money on accommodation, subscribing to journals, magazines, books, newspapers and the Internet. “We also have to present papers in seminars, which involves cost of travelling to another city, accommodation, too,” says Sandip Kumar Singh, a scholar at School of International Studies, JNU.
Research scholars from across the country have protested a number of times in the last few weeks outside the UGC and CSIR headquarters and demanded more grants.
Scholars demand an increase in monthly grants (from Rs. 5,000) to Rs. 10,000 (for the first two years) and (from Rs. 8,000) Rs. 16,000 (for the next three years)
JRF and SRF
JRF has been increased from Rs. 16,000 and SRF from Rs. 18000
Rs. 25,000 (JRF)
Rs. 28,000 (SRF)
Average monthly budget of a research scholar
Accommodation: Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 for a one-room flat
Food: A research scholar spends about Rs. 2,500 on his/her food bill
Newspapers/magazines/books/journals: Journal subscriptions cost Rs. 5,000 approx
Paper presentation: Rs. 10,000 spent on an average on participating in a seminar
Internet/laptop: An internet connection costs at least Rs. 600
Non-NET fellowships given to researchers have not been hiked. This has affected researchers from all streams, including science and humanities -- Saket Bahuguna, research scholar, du