The nationwide movement by research scholars demanding hike in fellowship stipend is gaining momentum, with researchers from more and more institutes across the country pledging support. The researchers have set a December 20 deadline for the government.
On Sunday, a meeting of researchers was organised on the campus of IIT-Bombay to finalise the draft proposal to be sent to the Human Resource Development ministry. Research scholars at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, too have come together for the cause.
“Though a section of researchers at IIT-B have been receiving stipends on time, many fellow researchers are still waiting for it. Over 150 of us, from various departments, met and finalised the proposal. We submitted it to the director on Monday,” said a PhD scholar from IIT-B.
The IIT-B scholars have demanded an 80 per cent hike. Alongside delay in receiving stipends, another pressing problem for the 4,000 to 5,000 IIT-B researchers is the nominal housing and rental allowance (HRA) that they get.
“In a metropolitan city like Mumbai, where the cost of living and housing are very high, students find it difficult to locate and sustain themselves in houses even with basic amenities. We demand that the HRA be considered and based keeping in view the basic standard of living of a respective city that a researcher will be staying in. At present, a researcher in a tier 4 city and a tier 1 city draws the same HRA,” the student added.
According to the students who enroll as junior research fellow or senior research fellow to pursue doctoral studies, the government should not have delayed revising their stipends, which were already very low in the pay scale. Though the matter is presently under review by the central government, with K Vijaya Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor, assuring students of a positive outcome, the issue was testing their patience, the students said.
“If the government was serious about revision, it should have implemented it at the turn of the financial year in April this year. We will wait till December 20, else we will need to resort to other means to meet what is due to us,” said another student, a junior research fellow at IIT-B.
“At the time when the Seventh Pay Commission was implemented, our HRA was reduced from 30 per cent to 24 per cent. This, even as our other allowances were not revised,” said another student.
The problem of delay in receiving stipends was mostly voiced by researchers enrolled under fellowships provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Since 2014, a junior research fellow is paid Rs 25,000 and a senior research fellow Rs 28,000 per month. Students also need to pay tuition fees in some institutions at the time of admission and at the start of every year.