AFTER SCIENTISTS, it was the turn of 500 research scholars from reputed research institutions and universities in the city to hit the streets on Friday and register their protest. They formed a human chain and took out a silent march against the delay by the Union government in announcing a hike in their fellowship stipends.
Since July this year, students from a number of national-level research laboratories had demanded an 80 per cent increase in their fellowship stipends. Currently, the stipend is Rs 25,000 and Rs 28,000 for a Junior Research Fellow (JRF) and a Senior Fellowship Fellow (SRF), respectively. The research scholars have also demanded the setting up of a committee to monitor all kinds of student-related activities, including timely disbursement of stipends.
Representing city-based institutes — CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), the students were part in a nationwide protest by 1.5 lakh researchers across the country on Friday. Holding placards, they marched from the main gate of IISER to SPPU, along Pashan Road.
Students from various IITs, NITs, central and state universities and IISERs held similar rallies at their respective parent institutions.
“Ours is a legitimate demand and the government must not make us resort to protests every four years. This time, we have been seeking a stipend hike for over six months. But the government has not made any formal announcements yet,” said a senior IISER scholar, who said he has not received his stipend for the last five months.
Officials of the main funding agencies — Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Biotechnology ( DBT) — have said the process to revise fellowship stipend hike was underway and a favorable announcement could be expected by the month-end.
On Friday, a group of student representatives also met Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST. These students said the government was considering a hike similar to previous revisions, which was realised in 2014, 2010 and 2006.
The students, however, threatened to take their protests to the next level if the government failed to come up with a formal announcement within the next 10 days.
“We do not like protesting but what is the way out when the government does not recognise and revise the stipends within regular intervals? If no positive announcement is made by the end of December, we will collectively stage a larger protest in front of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and DST in January,” said a student representative from IISER, Pune.