Govt hikes research stipend by 24%; fellows upset, protest to continuehttps://indianexpress.com/article/education/govt-hikes-research-stipend-by-24-fellows-upset-protest-to-continue-5561337/

Govt hikes research stipend by 24%; fellows upset, protest to continue

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has also said that it can consider limiting the number of fellowships due to 'budgetary constraints'. The research fellows who have been protesting since months said they will continue to protest for a better hike and also demand a hike in stipend every four years. According to latest notification, researchers can be asked to teach undergraduate classes.

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Researchers protested outside HRD building in December. (File Photo)

After the months-long protest by the research fellows from central institutes including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has increased the monthly stipend allotted to the research fellows by 24 per cent.

According to the new revision, the Junior Research Fellow (JRF) will get Rs 31,000 and Senior Research Fellow (SRF) will get Rs 35,000 as their monthly stipend which will come to effect from January 2019 onwards. After the last fellowship hike that took place in 2014, a JRF fellow gets Rs 25,000 and SRF fellow gets Rs 28,000 as a monthly stipend. The research fellows were, however, demanding a revision of Rs 50,000 and Rs 56,000 for JRF and SRF fellows respectively.

The researchers will still have no claims to DA, HRA, bonus, retirement benefit or any special allowance. However, the ministry or department may consider fixing the number of fellowships considering “budgetary outlays”, according to the official notification by the DST.

After two years, a JRD fellow can be promoted to SRF following external assessment by the institute where the student is enrolled for PhD. But to continue receiving SRF stipend, according to the official notification, candidates will have to undergo annual assessment.

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While the Science and Technology Minister, Harsh Vardhan said in an official statement, “improving the value of Ph.D research cannot be a one-time exercise but requires constant input and efforts”, the research fellows have expressed discontent towards the hike and called it a “chillar” move.

The researchers said they will protest against the move and are considering a hunger strike. The researchers also held a nation-wide protest earlier this month outside Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry office when over 700 protesters were detained by the Delhi Police.

Read| Delhi Police arrests protesting research scholars

Nikhil Gupta, national representative and coordinator of research scholars of India, CBMR SGPGI, Lucknow told indianexpress.com, “We will not accept stipend increase less than 80 per cent. If we look at previous four-year hikes, the amount was an average 50 per cent. When we had discussions with the DST Secretary, we were assured of a similar hike but they haven’t fulfilled their promise.”

DST Secretary, Ashutosh Sharma had met with representatives of research scholars from institutes across India in December and said that a “reasonable” hike will be made in their stipend. Sharma had also agreed to set up a committee which could ensure regular disbursal of funds for research scholars and a timely hike.

The government, however, has set-up an inter-ministerial committee to periodically examine fellowship-related matters including the quantum of fellowship. Another recommendation was to involve PhD students in teaching undergraduate students and managing research infrastructure during their doctoral research.

“When I was studying at IIT-Madras, I was part of the protest held in 2014. Now, again after four years, I am part of a protest seeking a hike. I do not want my juniors to follow the same path. It is not fair to fight for a hike every 3-4 years. We need an automated revision of stipend every four years. If our demands are not met we will go on to an indefinite hunger strike,” Gupta said.

Vickey Nandal, national representative of fellowship hike moment and PhD student council member at IIT-Delhi, told indianexpress.com “This is the minimum hike ever. We will try to connect with the officials again. This was the first time that all the researchers had come together for a cause and hence we are all disappointed.”

Additionally, 30-35 per cent hike has been announced in the financial rewards for research associates. The top bracket of Research Associateship is fixed at Rs.54,000.

According to DST, the current revision will be applicable only for the research personnel working on research and development programmes funded by the central government department or agencies.