Over 1.5 lakh students across the country, who are demanding a hike in fellowship stipends, face uncertainty because the central government is yet to make any announcement in this regard as on December 30. Earlier, top government officials, including K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Government of India (GoI), Shekhar Mande, director general, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, Department of Science and Technology (DST), had said that a positive announcement would be issued by the end of December.
On Saturday, the DST stated that an announcement in this regard was expected shortly as a decision had been taken and the Finance Ministry was taking the final steps. “Positive recommendations made by government committee are expected shortly,” stated DST, but students will have to wait for the announcement on the last day of 2018.
Since July this year, students pursuing doctoral studies from a number of national-level institutions operating and funded by CSIR, DST, Department of Biotechnology (DBT), University Grants Commission (UGC) have been demanding a revision in the existing pay scheme for junior research fellows and senior research fellows, which presently stands at Rs 25,000 and Rs 28,000, respectively. On previous occasions, stipends were enhanced every four years, in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Effectively, student scholars were due to get the revised stipends this year.
Students have also demanded that there be constituted a dedicated body to monitor the proceedings of all activities, including that of the timely disbursal of stipends, among other demands. Last week, students even met Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan, who assured students that there would be positive announcement soon.
On December 21, students from leading institutions, including IITs, Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISERs), NITs and labs under CSIR, had conducted silent protest rallies in many cities. In October, research scholars from IISER, Pune, CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) among students from other institutes had conducted protests to draw attention to the issue.