Students protest against end of fellowships – why it is important

The movement is slowly turning into a pan-India movement with protests erupting in Hyderabad, Allahabad and Bihar.

Written by Aranya Shankar | Updated: October 28, 2015 1:32 pm
NET, students protest, non-National Eligibility Test, research scholars, JNUSU, UGC, NET students protest, beyond the news Students’ union protest against UGC move to scrap non-National Eligibility Test

Since Tuesday, when news first broke out about the non-National Eligibility Test (NET) fellowship being discontinued for research scholars, students across universities have risen up in protest.

By the next day, the protest led by Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) had turned into an “Occupy UGC” movement, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011. Friday was marked by paramilitary crackdown on students as some were detained and others lathicharged.

The movement is slowly turning into a pan-India movement with protests erupting in Hyderabad, Allahabad and Bihar.

In practical terms, the discontinuation of the non-NET scholarship would mean financial assistance of Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 for MPhil and PhD students, respectively, being taken away. This fellowship benefitted both those who were not eligible to sit for NET and JRF as well as those who could not clear it.

Watch Video: UGC Protesters Being Beaten Up By The Delhi Police

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Students protesting against the move are not demanding just the reinstatement of the fellowship but also its increase. The protest hinges on two basic interconnected planks. Firstly, protesters say this will adversely affect students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds who rely heavily on the fellowship to carry on their research. Without the money, they will have to look for part time work to sustain themselves which will then affect the quality of research, as the focus will be divided.

Secondly and more importantly, they see this as a part of the larger plan of the BJP government to make Indian higher education compliant with the WTO-GATS (World Trade Organisation-General Agreement on Trade in Services) requirements. In the upcoming 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi this December, India is purportedly ready to sign an agreement with WTO which will make education a service rather than a right.

According to GATS, the host country will have to give ‘national treatment’ to foreign institutions, ‘not less favourable’ than that given to domestic companies. Therefore, India will not be able to discriminate between foreign and domestic institutions in term of subsidies, qualifications, licences etc.

Since subsidising private groups is not an option, the only way to level the playing field is to withdraw subsidies from public institutions. Students say the withdrawal of the fellowship is the first step in withdrawing funds from public institutions before it’s made self-financing and thereby privatised.

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  1. Akshat Seth
    Oct 24, 2015 at 11:38 am
    Meritocracy? What is meritocracy? Has India become economically equal that the starting point of the race is same? Sanghi paid trolls and those who clamor for the govt to sell the country to World Bank and WTO- two insutions which have a record of destroying countries and people, do not realise their folly. Paisa tumhaare babuji ya Adani Ambani ka nahi hai- humara hai. Kal ITO chauraha jaam kiya hai, aage jo hoga vo karenge. Yahan pe trolling karke hero mat bano zyada. RSS aur World Bank ke dalle!!!
    1. C
      Oct 24, 2015 at 8:39 am
      The UGC should do this in phased manner. As on date, those who are committed even because of administrative elapse should be allowed. A big NO to future scholarship. The Government instead finance student who enroll between 1-10 cl rather than harpening on non-working RTE etc. It should also stop giving scholarship for Engineering/Medicine to facilitate thriving of private insutions. Instead it should encourage more liberal loans from banks and other insutional financing.
      1. D
        Oct 24, 2015 at 10:00 am
        I am ignorant man. Please name me some research that have come from this mphl or phd that i can put to us?
        1. D
          Oct 24, 2015 at 3:56 pm
          Everywhere pvt companies and market forces finance the research that's why ppl do good research but here since u don't have to justify the value of ur research to anybody ppl do research just to get PhD. So they can apply for Govt jobs.their research have no value for market. Gud move by Govt now the ppl along with the professor have to look for funding for their research so quality of research will be improved.and I am not a sanghi just a person who know how things work.
          1. N
            Oct 24, 2015 at 10:48 am
            Very god decision by the government, these many number of PhD students are not required for India, we need only a qualified people to carry out research.
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