Hundreds of “Occupy UGC” protesters along with former UGC member Yogendra Yadav Thursday marched to the Ministry of Human Resource Development to demand the dissolution of the review committee set up to look into issues related to the non-National Eligibility Test (NET) fellowship.
After the crowd gathered outside the ministry headquarters, HRD minister Smriti Irani came out to meet the students. She reiterated the ministry’s decision, but declined to meet a delegation of protesters inside the premises.
“She refused to categorically state that the fellowships wouldn’t be restricted and also refused to commit whether the fellowships would be enhanced and extended to researchers in all public universities across the country and only said that we have to wait for the committee’s report,” said All India Students’ Association (AISA) president Sucheta De.
Yadav, who had joined the students for a 24-hour sit-in outside the UGC, expressed his solidarity with the protest. “This issue is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a serious dearth of fellowships and scholarships in Indian higher education, where even one per cent of students don’t get these benefits. I wish this movement will raise larger questions like these, and also question how the UGC takes its decisions,” he had said.
After protesting outside the ministry headquarters for several hours, the protesters decided to go back to UGC, the original protest site, and continue the movement. “We will aim for much larger mobilisations and make this a much bigger issue in the future,” said JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid Shora. The protest has already spread to various cities including Kolkata, Pune, Allahabad, Madurai, Hyderabad and Varanasi.
A review committee has been set up to determine economic or merit criteria for the fellowships and see if it can be extended to other states. Students, however, have rejected such a committee, arguing that no “exclusionary criteria” should be implemented.
They have also raised objections on the “partisan credentials” of some of its members.