Published: 28th September 2022
Government cancels 100 awards given to scientists; scholars and professors displeased
Though the awards are presented to senior scientists, scholars are afraid that this will lead to a lack of encouragement for many to pursue careers in Science
The research scholars in the field of Science across India are upset that the awards given in recognition of achievements in Science are being withdrawn. Though the awards are presented to senior scientists, the scholars are disappointed that the government has taken such a decision and are afraid that this will lead to a lack of encouragement for many to pursue careers in the scientific research field.
“The CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) Foundation is observed on September 26 every year. Awards related to various achievements and innovations in Science and research are presented to the scientists. The Foundation Day is observed individually in all the institutes and labs affiliated to CSIR across India separately,” Mandeep Singh, Vice-President of AIRSA (All India Research Scholars Association) and a PhD scholar from NPL (National Physics Laboratory), Delhi, said in a conversation with EdexLive.
However, the scholar informs that this year, Foundation Day was not celebrated. “Previously when the day was not observed, the awards were at least announced. But this year, no announcement came,” Mandeep said. He added that on top of this, the government had announced the withdrawal of about 100 awards which were given in recognition of scientists’ achievements.
“There is also no update on the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, which is considered the Nobel Prize of India. The awardees of this prize used to receive a monthly stipend. Now the government said it was bringing some reforms to the awards. There is no clarity if the stipend will be continued monthly or the awardees will get a lump sum or no stipend at all,” Mandeep stated. “This is a major setback for the scientific community,” he added.
“The cancellation of the awards means putting an end to the motivation for scientific research,” said a PhD scholar from IISER (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research), Berhampur, Odisha, who wished to remain anonymous. He added that good motivation and proper recognition were highly necessary for scientists, who work hard for the betterment of the country. “We know how important progress in research and development is for a country,” the scholar stated.
The researchers say that it is the scholars who are the scientific workforce and when they see their seniors and mentors getting awarded, they are motivated to put in better efforts. “Many of the awards have financial perks which we would aspire for when we become seniors,” the IISER scholar said. “Today’s students will be tomorrow’s scientists. I was inspired after I attended the CSIR Foundation Day in 2017,” Mandeep added.
“No #SSB prizes are announced today on the occasion of @CSIR_IND foundation day. Most of the awards are also being scraped as per the MoM circulated by Home Ministry (attached). Govt. however wants a new award like @NobelPrize. Disclaimer: I am not an applicant for SSB 2022,” tweeted Professor Chandra Shekhar Sharma, Dean (R&D), IIT Hyderabad. When EdexLive reached out for a comment, he said, “I have already said everything I had to say in my tweet.”
A Professor from IIT Madras, who wished to remain anonymous, had a slightly different view to share. “The consequences are both good and bad. It is certainly not okay that the awards were scrapped. Scientists should be encouraged. But on the other hand, many reforms were necessary for the awarding process. It is a fact that the scientists close to the administration were the favoured ones, while many who deserved the awards were left out,” he said.
“Most of the internal awards (the ones awarded by institutes) were patronised. Many, like me, believe that they were no good,” he said further. However, the Professor added that instead of completely doing away with the awards, the government should have compensated or replaced them with another mechanism.
Delays and worries
Moving back to the research scholars, they are also worried that their requests to the government for regular stipends and a raise in the amount has gone unanswered. “Since we have not received any reply to our submitted memorandums, we are now running Twitter campaigns to bring the issue to notice,” Mandeep said. “We have been initiating campaigns from Monday (September 19),” the IISER scholar added.
“Our PhD scholars are grossly underpaid. They are not getting compensated according to the work they do,” agreed the professor from IIT Madras. Especially the fellowships funded by DST (Department Of Science & Technology) and CSIR are the most delayed. And they are, according to me, mostly bureaucratic delays,” he said.
“The stipend is also being increased,” the IISER scholar complained. He informed that in 2019, the Parliamentary Standing Committee had recommended that the stipends which were then Rs 25,000 and Rs 28, 000 for JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) and SRF (Senior Research Fellowship) respectively, be increased to Rs 50, 000. But the government only increased it to Rs 31, 000 for JRF and Rs 35, 000 for SRF.
“The government is not encouraging the scientific community at all. I don’t understand why. Because of the delays, irregularities and lack of recognition, some of my friends dropped out of research after a year or two and moved to other jobs,” he lamented.