Research scholars from across the country said they were “anguished and shocked” about the “paltry hike” in their fellowship stipends — 24 per cent — announced by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on Wednesday. The DST communication also stated that the scholars will receive the enhanced stipends from next year.
As per the latest announcement, the stipend for a Junior Research Fellow (JRF) will be revised from Rs 25,000 to Rs 31,000. The stipend of a Senior Research Fellow (SRF) has been increased from Rs 28,000 to Rs 35,000.
The hike will be implemented for a total of 1.5 lakh scholars inducted for programmes funded by DST, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER).
Similarly, Research Associates, whose pay grade has three levels, will get revised stipends of Rs 47,000, Rs 49,000 and Rs 54,000 for levels RA I, RA II and RA III, respectively. The DST communication made no mention of the stipend received by post-doctoral fellows.
Many demands unaddressed
Research scholars had demanded a much higher hike, one adjusted for inflation, in their stipends. But the revisions announced today are the lowest since 2006, With the Centre not announcing any decisions on the rest of the demands put forward by the students, including setting up of a central committee, the matter is far from resolved.
The researchers, who have been demanding a stipend hike since July last year, have said the central government has not only deceived them but also turned a deaf ear to most of their demands.
Nearly 200 students from city-based CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), IISER and Savitribai Phule Pune University had participated in the nation-wide protests called earlier this month.
“Even if one considers the average hike realised since 2006, it is way higher than the 24 per cent announced now. We are forced to continue our protests as we will not
accept this paltry hike,” Nikhil Gupta, who represents the Research Scholars India, told The Indian Express.
The student community has even questioned the timing of the announcement. “While the government has announced a hike in the stipends by some amount, we feel cheated. They have made the announcement very close to the presentation of the Union budget. We won’t even be paid arrears,” said a student from IISER, Pune.
Many students said that they were given “false promises” by government officials and have wasted a lot of their time outside labs, staging protests. “ We have invested over four months in the protests and that has affected our work. The outcome has not been in our favour,” said a student from NCL.