Published: 07th January 2021
Why were NIT Jalnadhar's new PhD scholars asked to find other institutes to start research? COVID or a fund crunch?
A notice from the admin stated that due to the "current COVID-19 pandemic situation and as per the Government guidelines, it is not possible for opening of the Institute for the students"
The Dr B R Ambedkar National Institute of Technology Jalandhar in a notice dated December 30, 2020, had asked PhD scholars who had got Insititute Fellowship and were provisionally admitted for this term to look for other universities as they would not be able to admit them. The reason — to keep them safe from COVID-19. But officials also confirmed that there is a severe fund crunch that has forced them to take such a decision, COVID-19 is just one of the other issues. Scholars who are being funded by external agencies like the DST or DRDO will, however, continue their research.
Director Dr Lalit Kumar Awasthi denied any instance of a fund crunch in recent times and said that they can only take a decision when the government gives them the go-ahead. "The students have been waiting for a long time. We cannot yet ask them to come to the campus either. Research has to be done for them to be paid. How can they do research without joining the institute?" he asked.
The notice stated that due to the "current COVID-19 pandemic situation and as per the Government guidelines, it is not possible for opening of the Institute for the students". "The Institute had earlier planned for the joining of the PhD candidates admitted under the Full-Time programme (with Institute Fellowship) apprehending the possibility of opening the Institute for students in near future but as of now, the situation seems to be very remote. The PhD programme involves the interaction of the Supervisor with the Research Scholar and carrying out Research related work in the Institute under the supervision of the Supervisor, which is not possible in the current pandemic situation," read the notice that further asked the aspiring research scholars to "join some other Institute/courses as per their choice and suitability".
The students said that the institute has left them hanging by coming out with a notice so late. "I have quit my job and was preparing for my PhD. I have a family to support. I cannot go ahead with my PhD without a stipend. There is no time to apply anywhere else either. it would be difficult to even get a job in the midst of a pandemic of this scale. I have to probably give up my dream and start a business," said an aspirant who was provisionally admitted for PhD in Computer Science. "I do not understand how an NIT can not have funds. If they let me do my PhD it would have added to the institute's body of work and helped us as a country in whatever way," he added.
At a time when the centre is trying with all its might to overcome the battle and for the return of normalcy, will this harsh decision of the NIT Jalandhar administration not put our young scholars in a backfoot and mental breakdown? This is sheer injustice to their honest effort, time, and money. These scholars have got admission to come from various backgrounds," said Vikrant Singh, President of the Joint Research Council of India, a students' body in support of the students.
The students funded by the institute had received another notice earlier this year where they were asked to give the undertaking to waive off the stipend. But the candidates refused to agree. "We had asked them to give an undertaking since there was a fund crunch. But when they did not agree we decided to go ahead with it in January," Dean of Academics, Dr Arunagshu Mukhopadhyay told Edex. "Now the situation is different. The stipend is given for teaching assistantship which majorly includes lab work and in times like these, it seems improbable. Without the teaching assistantship, the stipend is not justified. Whoever can manage (the expenses) themselves have registered," he added, confirming that those scholars who have been sponsored by external bodies like DST or DRDO have registered.