Shekhar Mande, the newly appointed Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), on Monday said the government was awaiting a final nod from the finance department to the proposal suggesting a hike in stipends of research fellows.
Thousands of research students from numerous labs and research institutions under the CSIR, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology have been demanding a hike in their fellowship stipends since July this year. Among other demands, they have sought a hike of 80 per cent from the present day pay scale — Rs 25,000 and Rs 28,000 paid to a Junior Research Fellow (JRF) and Senior Research Fellow (SRF), respectively.
Failing any decision in the matter, the students have even threatened to stage a nationwide protest on December 21.
Mande, who was on a day-long visit to the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), inaugurated five new lab facilities. Besides conducting reviews of all ongoing projects at the NCL, he also interacted with scientists and students. “There will definitely be a hike in stipends and there needs to be no doubt about it. But, there is a certain process that needs to be followed, which must remain a standard one, even for future generation of students,” Mande told The Indian Express.
While a large chunk of the student community from across the country is feeling let down as the government is yet to make any decision public, the CSIR DG reassured that the government will support the future torchbearers of science, generously. “We have a fair amount of conviction that these scholars are tomorrow’s future of the country and need to be supported generously, and that is what we are doing,” he said.
Asked when a decision was expected, as students were alleging a delay by the government, Mande said, “There has not really been a delay as we have been holding repeated discussions on this matter. We have decided upon the amount to be hiked, but I cannot announce it at the moment. A certain section of students is unnecessarily feeling anxious but the government is following up the process step-by-step.”
However, all hopes of hearing some positive development from the visiting DG came crashing for over 500 researchers of the institute. “We need to know by what percentage will the stipend be hiked and when it will be implemented. While we are happy the government is working on this policy but we had a lot of hope from today’s meeting,” said a researcher from the institute, who wished to remain anonymous.
In fact, stipends issued by the CSIR are among those having relatively high pendency in comparison to other research funding agencies and the matter was brought to the DG’s notice. “A software is being developed and he assured the stipends will be disbursed on time, starting January 2019,” said the student, who has stipends of a few months still due.