At least 10 MTech students of the Department of Energy Studies at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) have been on an indefinite hunger strike for over 48 hours demanding payment of their stipend, which, they alleged, had not been paid in the past two years. The stipend has allegedly not been paid to 15 students who had enrolled in the MTech in Energy course two years ago.
On Saturday, two of the students fell sick and a medical checkup revealed low sugar levels, following which it was advised that they be hospitalised. The students, however, continued their hunger strike.
One of the striking students, Tushar Bargal, said, two years ago, the students had responded to an admission notice issued by the SPPU for the said course. “The notice mentioned that students would be paid a stipend of Rs 12,000 per month during the tenure of the course. Many of us were working had quit our jobs thinking that we could get an opportunity to earn and study simultaneously. Not all of us could afford to go without salary… the stipend was important to us. However, after joining the course, we were told that the stipend would come from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE),” he said.
The students also claimed that they had approached the MNRE after the university kept postponing the payment of the stipend for one year. “When we got their reply, we were shocked… They said our admissions did not follow norms laid down by MNRE. According to them, in 2015, they had issued a circular, stating that stipend would be given only to the candidates who have cleared the GATE. The university authorities said they had no knowledge of such a condition and hence, there was no such condition during our admission. Had we been told this earlier, we could have taken a decision to continue the course or not since it meant that the stipend would never come. Now its been two years and only 15 days to go before our course is completed and university authorities are still asking us to wait saying they are trying to find a solution,” said Abhay deshmukh, another student.
Even as striking students complained that no official from the SPPU administration had come to meet them in the last two days, Pro Vice-Chancellor N S Umrani claimed that he was aware of the situation. “Two years ago, the grant, which used to come from the ministry, had stopped. They just discontinued it. That’s why the stipends have not been paid. We are aware of their concerns and they are legitimate… we are continuously following up with the ministry. We will clear the payment as soon as we get the funds, or if we can come up with an another solution,” he said.