Published: 25th January 2019
Sad masks, candlelight march mark tenth day of protests by researchers at IIT Delhi
With the recent doubling of tuition fees at IIT Delhi, PhD research students are finding it increasingly hard to cope with academic expenditures amongst the stagnation of scholarship hikes
Ten days after they began their protest for a hike in research fellowships, over 400 researchers of IIT Delhi have been wearing black armbands and 'sad' mime masks while continuing to work. The impact of this novel method of protesting has caught the fancy of the striking researchers across the nation — most of whom are working and agitating inside their campuses. They also took out a candlelight march for close to three hours — to make a statement.
Vickey Nandal, a PhD scholar at IIT Delhi said, "We met minister Prakash Javadekar first, then later Harsh Vardhan who is the Minister of Science and Technology as well. They told us our demands would be met by December 31, but things are still in the pipeline," he said. What exactly are these demands? To begin with, an eighty per cent hike in the offered research scholarship.
The PhD scholars have been waiting for the last six months, since April 2018, but after nothing materialized, they decided to carry out their protests. A group of representatives from the various IITs assembled for a meeting in Delhi on January 3 and took the unanimous decision to begin their nationwide protests from January 16. In a joint show of support, more than 2000 PhD scholars participated and demonstrated in front of the MHRD office, with the end result being the arrest of 700 scholars by armed police. Though they were released later the same day, the students decided to strengthen their protest by making it indefinite. "On the first day, 2000 PhD scholars from all across India gathered at Delhi. On the second and third days, we staged a march at IIT Delhi, while on the fourth and fifth day we send 2000 postcards to the PMO, the President of India, MHRD and DST respectively. On the last two days, the students wore black ribbons on their arms and also donned a sad mask," says Vickey. The momentum of the protest appears to be picking up speed rapidly, with the determined scholars planning to meet Prof K Vijay Raghavan, the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, to project their woes and concerns.
The researchers have asked for an eighty percent rise in scholarship to meet the academic costs of carrying out their respective researches, as well as a guarantee from the government that the financial aids will be handed out in a timely manner. "Some centres are currently giving the fellowships after five or six months. There is no committee that oversees the procedure, or verify if the scholarships are being sent out on time," remarks Vickey. For a nation that prides itself on its incredibly rich heritage and history, not to mention the establishment of famed ancient universities such as the likes of Nalanda and Takshashila, it is high time the government lends an amicable ear to the plights of those striving for academic excellence.