Stipend hike row: Researchers from across country to hold protest outside MHRDhttps://indianexpress.com/article/education/stipend-hike-row-researchers-from-across-country-to-hold-protest-outside-mhrd-5498682/

Stipend hike row: Researchers from across country to hold protest outside MHRD

Student representatives to hold silent protests outside MHRD on December 21. Over 400 postcards, 5000 signatures already reached PMO, MHRD office till now.

Students protest the murder of three film students who have become emblematic of Mexico's missing, in Mexico City. (AP)
Students to protest on December 21, 2018. (Representational Image)

Demanding increase in their monthly stipend, research scholars from educational institutes across the country, including the IISc and IITs, will hold a peaceful protest outside the Human Resources Development ministry in New Delhi on December 21. They earlier held a signature campaign and have sent letters stating their demands to the MHRD, UGC, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and other funding bodies.

The researchers are demanding hike in the monthly stipend from Rs 25, 000 for JRF fellow to Rs 50,000; and Rs 28,000 per SRF fellows to Rs 56,000, along with an annual inflation-based increment. Their demands also include timely distribution of funds and 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.

“We have sent several letters to MHRD, PMO and DST by post, email and even sent faxes to their respective offices. But we have not received any reply. We are forced to hold a nation-wide protest. From IIT-BHU alone 50 representatives have agreed to reach the MHRD office as of now and student representatives from other institutions have also agreed to join. Rest of the students will observe protest in their respective campuses on December 21,” said Mayank, a research scholar from IIT-BHU.

The stipend for research scholars were last hiked in 2014. “Since I have joined the research, apart from the inflation, there has been a hike of mess fee, semester fee and other expenses well. The mess fee alone has increased from Rs 15,000 to Rs 27,000 since then but our stipend has remained the same. This hike is needed for our basic day to day expenditure,” said Abdul Ali, IIT-Bombay.

Replying to queries sent by indianexpress.com, Secretary, MHRD, R. Subrahmanyam said that the MHRD was discussing the matter with the DST. He also informed that the DST is “probably carrying this matter to Cabinet soon.”

Many students had also raised concerns over the ‘high stipend’ given to the PMRF fellow (Rs 75,000), stating that this has created a divide. One of the postcards sent to the PMO had stated, “The present PMRF scheme only addresses a very small part of the student community and a larger part is still left out.”

To this, Subhramanyam said, “PMRF stands on a different footing since it is engaged in cutting-edge research and the selection criteria, expectations (from PMRF scholars) are totally different.”

However, this has not gone down well with other researchers. Many students are calling the move “highly biased”.

“We understand that there is a selection criterion for PhD students under PMRF which allows them to explain the relevance of their research. But we are not even given that chance. The MHRD should hold national-level interview sessions for all PhD students and whoever has most socially relevant topic with social impact and has clarity of research path should also be considered ‘cutting-edge’,” said Vivek Sharma, chairperson, IISc student council.

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“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.