Published: 17th August 2020
Submit research paper within a month or lose fellowship: NIT Srinagar notice lands research scholars in jeopardy
The scholars reached out to the Joint Research Council of India (JRCI), an apolitical body, for help as they were afraid of punitive actions
NIT Srinagar has asked its research scholars to submit a paper to "some reputed journal" within a month to avail their fellowship funds for August 2020. In a notice dated July 17, a notice from Director Rakesh Sehgal asked the heads of the departments to "advise" the concerned supervisors to "impress upon the research scholars" to submit a paper to journals which will also "give an impetus to the NIRF ranking of the institute".
The research scholars who have completed their course work are perturbed with the notice as there have been very few classes the past year since the abrogation of the Article 370 and the internet and physical lockdown that followed. "We have hardly had 30 to 35 days of class the last year and since the COVID-19 pandemic started we have not been able to be present on campus and now the institute has been temporarily made into a treatment facility for the Coronavirus patients. The notice says that we can submit review paper if the experimental part of it has not yet started but for that too we need to be there at the institute. How are we expected to carry on research without the resources?" asked a scholar of the Civil Engineering department of the institute.
Afraid of "targetted punitive actions", the scholars reached out to the Joint Research Council of India (JRCI), an apolitical body, for help. The JRCI wrote a letter to the HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal with a copy to the Director, the NIT Council, PM Narendra Modi and the President among others. The argued that the scholars, like everyone else, are under a lot of mental pressure and good research cannot be forced upon someone. "Obtaining research publication by what appears more like a threatening to withhold fellowship, does not align with the process of science. Moreover, it reminds us of the inhumane conditions of historically practised slavery, where all rules were devoid of the concerns of human lives. Many research scholars depend on the fellowship to make ends meet and threatening to cut-off their financial assistance can break their morale. Research or for that matter any other intellectual activity cannot grow in such a strained environment," read the letter.
Vikrant Singh, a research scholar of IIT Guwahati and President of the JRCI said that the decision also violates the fundamental rights of scholars to "live with dignity and equality", which the Constitution upholds for all citizens. "NIT Srinagar is forcing their scholars to an unwarranted strain, these forceful demand will only leave our researcher heartbroken, and agitated. That is wrong for morale. We're trying to raise, and resolve this, the government can't remain oblivious," he said. "The courts are also not hearing matters that are not very urgent in their eyes we are pondering over our next step," added Vikrant.
But can the Director ask to implement such rules? No, said Dr Brijesh Rai, the 'whistleblower' professor who was forced to retire from IIT Guwahati earlier this year. "The circular by the director of NIT Srinagar is illegal. First, it is the Senate who has the authority to make rules or guidelines in academic matters. Even the Senate can not make any arbitrary rules. In these uncertain times, where most research scholars are at their homes and many do not have internet facility and even if they have they cannot download research articles from their homes, asking them to show the proof of research article submission is ridiculous," he said and added that here should be a training program for the director of academic institutions. "More and more cases are coming into light where directors are issuing circular which are illegal but has devastating impact on the well being of the students. In my opinion, this circular should be rolled back immediately," said the professor.
The scholars have not yet received a reply from either the Director or the MHRD and have also failed to get back to the institute. "I had tried to get back to my rented apartment near the institute but the locals objected to someone coming into the neighbourhood. I tried going to the campus but it is not being used as a COVID facility and the patients started protesting that the students cannot come back. I do not know what to do. I live in a village 300 km off Srinagar and the connectivity here is not that great. How will I ever complete a research paper and submit it? I have just completed my course work and the supervisor is also as clueless as I am about how to go about this issue," said another student.