CSIR to extend project deadlines for PhD scholars whose five-year terms ended during COVID lockdown

A lot of CSIR scholars in their fifth year had a delay in their research project submission, owing to the lockdown. But CSIR has told us that they are considering giving them an extension
A CSIR Institute (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)
A CSIR Institute (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

Owing to the pandemic and the lockdown, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research will be extending the project deadline for all its PhD scholars who are in the fifth year of their research, says its Director-General Dr Shekhar C Mande. Responding to a query by Edexlive, Mande said that funding the projects for the extended time period is "under active consideration."  "Work is going on on a war footing to cover up any delays that might have been caused," he said.

There has been a lot of hue and cry among the research community in the country previously, especially the researchers who are in the fifth year of their PhD. Many of them, who claimed to be on the verge of completing their projects, had to leave their labs, owing to the lockdown. Upon return. they had exhausted their five-year deadline.

We spoke to Harini*, a CSIR scholar who is pursuing her PhD from IISc Bangalore. She was nearing the end of her research when the number of COVID-19 cases started rising in India. In a few days, the entire country was under lockdown, owing to which she had to go home. She had returned to IISc Bangalore only three days back when we spoke to us and was undergoing the mandatory quarantine in her hostel room.

Even though she is glad to be back on campus, the thought of her unfinished research project haunts her. Harini's five-year tenure, came to a close during the lockdown. "Had the pandemic situation not existed, I would have finished my project by now. I had to leave the campus because it was a risky situation," she says. The institute was locked down on March 15 and the students were asked to leave the campus by the next day.

Harini's isn't an isolated case. A lot of CSIR fellows across the country are in the same boat. Another CSIR researcher, who wrote an email to the agency, for which he received a response from CSIR Chief Scientist N B Bhoi said that they had refused his request for funds. The mail read, "Please note that CSIR-HRDG cannot fund a fellowship for more than five years, under any circumstance." This has now left the researchers in a state of confusion and helplessness. "What is the point of allowing an extension without funding it? The researchers are already under so much stress. We really hope the CSIR takes favourable action," says another researcher.

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