By Abu Saleh
Since the Narendra Modi Government took over in May, 2014, many students in India have found themselves in great trouble. This is not just because of the widely discussed issues such as the suicide of Rohith Vemula at UoH and the incarceration of Kanhaiya Kumar and his friends at JNU. Apart from these well publicised instances of regime-backed atrocities on students, there are several other issues which do not attract the same attention from people. For example, fund cuts in higher education and attempts at saffronisation of higher education by appointing people with RSS backgrounds in important positions.
One of the most serious issues, which has been directly affecting researchers in India, is irregular or discontinuation of fellowships.
The debates regarding the UGC Non-Net Fellowship and the UGC’s messing up with it are well known. After several protests throughout the country, the HRD Ministry did set up a committee. The report of the committee was supposed to come out in December, 2015 but researchers are still waiting for the same. The ‘unqualified’ humbug minister seems to be an underperformer, too.
Further, many ongoing fellowship schemes are also in great danger since many of them have been mismanaged in the last two years. The late disbursement system and several months without any fellowship are plaguing the students.
Fellowship schemes like MANF, RGNF and so on are dysfunctional for a long time. Last year some students did visit the UGC and other concerned ministries and they were promised that the schemes will run as per law. Unfortunately, it did not happen. As of now, thousand of research scholars across the country have not received their fellowship for many months. For example, the scholars under the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) scheme for minority students haven’t been receiving fellowships since last October – November. Other schemes such as RGNF SC, RGNF ST, and RGNF OBC and so on are also running late. Most unfortunately, fellowships for disabled students have not been released since last July. Under these circumstances, these research scholars are in great distress.
This repeated late disbursement of fellowships affects thousands of research scholars across the country. Most of the scholars solely depend on fellowship for their needs. Thus, if the fellowship amount is not credited on time, it becomes very difficult to sustain. Researchers literally witness times when they do not have any money to support ourselves. Students feel really dejected that they are reduced to the status of beggars, who have to petition every month for what they rightfully deserve as legal entitlements as research scholars. In this process, they lose much of their time and energy, which could otherwise be utilized for fruitful research. Researchers are not even able to concentrate on research, as they are constantly worried about the lack of money for basic needs.
Now, who is to be blamed for all this? Is the assigned Canara Bank and its system or the bureaucracy of the UGC responsible? Are the ministries or the entire Govt. responsible? The students have been calling and begging the Canara Bank, the UGC and the ministries almost every day for the pending money. When the students hear the multiple power-centres engaging in a mutual blame game, they do not know what to do to get the problem resolved. While the researchers wait almost endlessly every month for the fellowships, the hostel authorities do not wait for the mess fees to be remitted, the university authorities do not wait for the tuition fees to be paid, the labs cannot wait for the essential chemicals, tools and instruments to be used from time to time.
This plea might sound a little emotional but this is the ground reality of the researchers in India. Sometime many wonder and regret their choice of research as a career over other promising career options, which wouldn’t have at least left them in a situation like this.
Do imagine a situation, where the employees don’t get their salary during the first week of the month.
Students appeal that they not be punished further for choosing to face the challenges of a career in research in order to contribute to the academic development of the country. Here we must remember that one of the significant reasons mentioned by Rohith Vemula in his tract (going around as his ‘suicide note’ for his fatal decision) was monetary problem. His fellowship was stopped for many months and his pending fellowship was finally disbursed after his death.
We would like to ask whether the ministries, the UGC and the other powers-that-be want mass suicides to occur across educational campuses of the country.
Thus, we request the concerned authorities at the UGC, at various ministries, and power-holders at the Govt. to look into the pathetic situation and do the needful at the earliest to resolve the late disbursement of our fellowships. Please act immediately to solve our problem; please give us our monthly fellowship at least within the first week of every month; please let us do our work peacefully and properly.
Abu Saleh on the delay of fellowship
Read another report on The Quint.
Abu Saleh is a doctoral student at the Center for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India.
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