The research scholars of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore have threatened to hold a nation-wide protest on December 21, 2018 against the allegedly unequal, irregular and low stipend for research scholars. Citing that the government has not heard their demands, chairperson of IISc students council and research scholar at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing, Vivek Sharma told the indianexpress.com, “It is time that research scholars have to come on streets and protest for their rights.” The researchers have claimed to send letters to other educational institutes across the country and researchers from IIT Mumbai, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur, IISER Kolkata and IISER Pune have already agreed to join the protest.
Joining the nation-wide protest which had begun in 2014, the IISc students are demanding a hike in basic stipend, regular disbursement of funds and an annual increment of stipend according to the inflation rate. The researchers are demanding Rs 50,000 stipend for JRF fellows and Rs 56,000 for SRF fellows. After the last revision in the research stipend which was made in 2014, the JRF scholars are getting Rs 25,000 per month and SRF fellows get Rs 28,000 as stipend.
“The stipend is our salary as we are devoting years in a research project. Most of the students get around Rs 25-28,000 which is insufficient. We had demanded a hike in 2014 also but our demands were not met. We should get an annual increment on our stipend in accordance with the inflation rates,” said Sharma.
Stating that it is the “value we (research scholars) deserve for our contribution to the country,” the PhD scholars have sought inclusion of PhD research personnel in the list of categories considered under the pay commission revision which ensures DA and annual salary revision along with ad-hoc reminders every four years to MHRD, DST, DBT, CSIR, UGC and other funding agencies.
“More students are getting tilted towards moving to some foreign institutes or getting corporate jobs where they get adequately paid for their labour,” read one of the 400 postcards research scholars had sent to the PMO. “I hope you understand that research needs more involvement than a job,” it added.
In another postcard addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a student has written, “The increase in stipend of JRF and SRF is the need of the hour. The present PMRF scheme only addresses a very small part of the student community and a larger part is still left out.”
Many students have also raised concerns over the high stipend allotted to PMRF (Pradhan Mantri Research Fellowship) fellows. The recently announced fellowship gives Rs 75,000 as a stipend to researchers. “While the scholarship was a good step to retain good minds to India, it is also irrational that one person working in the same lab gets Rs 75,000 and the other gets Rs 25,000,” a student from IISc told indianexpress.com
The IISc students are also running a signature campaign. They have drafted their demands and are collected signs of those who agree with it. The on-going campaign has received 1300 signatures so far (December 14, 10:30 am). Research scholars have also sent the draft of demands to the Ministry of HRD, the UGC and the respective funding authorities including DST-funded KVPY, INSPIRE fellows.
The council has said that the campaign will be spread to other institutes also and has asked other research fellows with similar demands to “flood the PMO with postcards”.
Officials from the MHRD and UGC did not reply to several queries put by indianexpress.com.