Nearly four months after India’s key research funding agencies agreed to a 24 per cent hike in the stipends of thousands of research scholars in the country, the revised emoluments are yet to come into effect.
On January 30 this year, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) had announced a revision in the fellowship stipends from Rs 25,000 and Rs 28,000 for junior research fellows (JRF) and Rs 31,000 and Rs 35,000, for senior research fellows (SRF). Research associates (RA), whose pay grades are earmarked in three levels, was revised to Rs 47,000, Rs 49,000 and Rs 54,000 for levels one, two and three, respectively. The enhanced stipends were to be credited to the accounts of research scholars starting January 2019.
A total of 1.5 lakh scholars inducted for programmes funded by DST, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and all IITs and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) were set to benefit from the decision.
“We have not got any intimation about the enhanced stipends and we continue to receive the stipends as per the earlier pay scale. The institute is also clueless as there has been no communication from the parent funding agency,” a research scholar from CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), not wishing to be named, told The Indian Express. The research scholar said the stipend for February was credited only a few days ago.
While some institutions under the MHRD, like IITs and IISERs, have received written communication notifying the roll out of the revised stipends, payment of the same has not commenced as yet. Central and state universities and labs operating under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the UGC, meanwhile, are yet initiate any procedures towards releasing the revised stipends.
IISER Pune, which has already received MHRD’s intimation, has proposed to roll out the revised stipends from June.
Around 300 to 500 students at CISR-NCL, however, continue to remain in the dark, as neither the institute nor the CSIR has made any official communication in the matter so far.
Another key decision to introduce online transfer of stipends through a centralised channel, a part of the January announcement, also seems to have made no headway yet, with no steps initiated by the concerned authorities towards the matter.
“The stipends that we have received are not updated. There is no fixed date on which the stipends are credited. Though the revised stipends were announced, many of us continue to receive stipends of last year or early 2019. We do not know how the online credit system will work, as we are clueless about the new system,” another SRF said.
Students are now hoping that the funding agencies will swing back to action after the ongoing Lok Sabha elections are completed. “Many of us will be promoted as SRFs or higher and it is a crucial time for our research careers. If there is no update in this matter, we plan to unite and meet with the DST officials and raise the matter once again after the elections,” a student from a central university said.