Fellowship disbursement delay draws sharp reaction from CSIR research scholar

"We weren't receiving fellowships on time as it is; now I have been asked to wait 6-7 months," Nikhil Gupta says 
This is his story | (Pic: EdexLive)
This is his story | (Pic: EdexLive)

Despite having a digital portal to govern the disbursement of fellowships, research scholars all over India have been complaining about the delay in the procedure over the years. The scenario has become worse for Nikhil Gupta, a scholar at the Centre of Biomedical Research, SGPGI Campus Lucknow, whose fellowship was terminated on January 31. "We weren't receiving the fellowship on time anyway, and now I have been asked to wait 6-7 months," he says.

According to Gupta, due to this delay in the disbursement, the scholars had requested the government to set up a digital portal, which came into operation in 2021. "Although it did help in some ways, like during the upgradation of fellowships, it did little to ease the burden for scholars. "There are 10-12 steps for approval of fellowships. Each step takes 3-4 days, and ultimately the fellowship money reaches us more than a month late," he explains.

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The digital portal has become additionally problematic for Gupta after his fellowship tenure ended. "My access was terminated, and I couldn't log in," he says. As a result, his attendance for the month of January for his last fellowship couldn't be uploaded on the portal by his institute, a task that required completion before February 5.

After reaching out to his institute authorities, Gupta's fellowship request was submitted, but he has been awaiting his fellowship since. On April 10, he wrote an email to Dr Geetha Vani Rayasam, head of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research - Human Resource Development Group (CSIR-HRDG) asking for details on the funds. This is the body responsible for his fellowship. The same day, he received a reply stating that his fellowship request had been approved on April 5 but would take about 6-7 weeks to process.

Frustrated, the scholar has drafted another email to Dr Rayasam in this regard today, April 22. "We research scholars of India under CSIR are struggling for regular disbursement of fellowships since 2018... It's the end of my tenure and now I am getting a response that it was processed on the 5th and I will get it in 6-7 weeks. Like seriously? We are living in the digital era, where India’s largest research and development organisation can’t even provide fellowship timely to its own researchers?" the email reads.

The scholar further mentions that he is yet to get clarity on the pending amount of the contingency (Rs 20,000) which he has already received. "I haven't used all the funds, but my institute forbade me from using those for travelling to a conference. According to the CSIR guidelines, I can use the money for academic travel and to print my thesis," he says. In his email, Gupta sought clarity on the matter from CSIR.

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