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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Pune: Amid lockdown, research scholars await stipend, word from funding agencies

Scholars at NCL, IISER, CDRI, SPPU affected.

Written by Anjali Marar | Pune | Updated: April 13, 2020 7:02:46 pm
With the lockdown in place, scholars are even more apprehensive about receiving their stipend as there is no clarity or communication on pending installments from the funding agencies. (File)

Research scholars pursuing doctoral studies at premier institutions in the city are financially burdened as they have, so far, not received any fellowship stipend this year.

Junior Research Fellows (JRF) and Senior Research Fellows (SRF) at CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) are among those in the city whose financial worries are mounting.

At a time when the world is racing against time to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, among those who are yet to receive their stipend include 116 scholars from CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow.

With the lockdown in place, scholars are even more apprehensive about receiving their stipend as there is no clarity or communication on pending installments from the funding agencies.

A JRF receives a monthly stipend of Rs. 31,000 whereas an SRF gets Rs. 35,000. The fellowships were revised last year but researchers said they were not paid regularly. While during some months, no stipend was credited to student accounts, on certain occasions, a student received two stipends in the same month, they added.

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology and University Grants Commission are the main funding agencies of these fellowships, which can go up to five years. Of these, a majority of scholars recognised under CSIR and DBT are facing backlog in receiving stipend, some starting from August 2019.

At SPPU, students submit documents by the second day of each month, following which they are forwarded to concerned authorities by the fifth day of the same month. However, the time taken to disburse stipends can vary anywhere between two and six months.

“Why should the processing take so long when every document is shared online? How can we sustain when we do not receive stipend for three to four consecutive months, that too, in a city like Pune?” asked an SRF from SPPU, whose stipend for December was credited in February.

Just ahead of the lockdown announcement last month, NCL had asked all its researchers to vacate hostels and head home.

“We had to make last-minute travel bookings and pay hefty prices for tickets in order to catch the earliest available flights or trains back home. This has led to financial constraints this month,” said another SRF, who is waiting for three months’ worth of stipend.

Scholars said they were unhappy with the response from the CSIR grievance cell, which was set up last year. “It is of little use as our calls go unanswered. Our emails since January are pending without any reply. How should we convey our distress?” asked another student.

An SRF from CDRI said, “We are staying put at the institute, as we belong to this city. Our institute is providing us with required material for the time being. But we are running short of money and do not know how long it will take to get pending stipend even after the lockdown ends.”

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