Research fellowship hike: DST gives assurances; update expected in 3 weeks?

Twelve representatives from AIRSA met the DST Secretary Dr Srivari Chandrasekhar to raise issues like insufficient and irregular fellowship for research scholars
AIRSA met DST on June 1 | Credit: Source
AIRSA met DST on June 1 | Credit: Source

Following several protests by research scholars across the country demanding a hike in the fellowship, the protestors have finally received a response from the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

While speaking to the representatives of the All India Research Scholars Association (AIRSA) at a meeting on Thursday, June 1, the DST official assured the researchers that their concerns will be taken into account and an update regarding the hike in the fellowship will be released within three weeks.

Minutes of the meeting

On June 1, as many as 12 representatives from AIRSA met DST Secretary Dr Srivari Chandrasekhar to raise issues like insufficient and irregular fellowship for research scholars in India, among other concerns.

At the meeting, the DST informed that it is committed to collaborating with the SSR (Social Scientific Responsibility) to develop comprehensive guidelines to address the issue being faced by the researchers.

The department also assured that it has sent proposals to all the concerned ministries around mid-April and an update will be given to the researchers within three weeks time.

Dr Lal Chandra Vishwakarma, President, AIRSA, shared, “They have not disclosed any details or what percentage of the hike will be implemented. From our side, we have proposed a 60 per cent hike considering the inflation rate and the rising cost of institutional fees. The department also acknowledged the other issues that were raised at the meeting like lack of medical facilities, harassment of PhD scholars and so on.”

In the letter that was submitted to DST on Thursday, the association had also highlighted how most of the premiere research institutes like IITs, IARIs and central universities, have hiked their fee by 50-100 per cent in the last few years while the fellowship has not been increased.

Several issues raised

While the main focus of the meeting remained the demand for fellowship hike and regular disbursal of the same, the researchers also highlighted several other issues with the DST official.

The concerns included a lack of mental health and medical facilities available at research institutes, harassment faced by PhD scholars, the absence of concerned authorities to address researchers’ grievances and concerns and more.

Dr Mandeep Singh, Vice-President, AIRSA, explained, “The DST was not aware of the absence of medical facilities at research institutes. There is no medical insurance in case any lab accident occurs. The harassment and suicide cases against research scholars are increasing every day. They say that they want at least 30 per cent participation by women researchers but who is going to take responsibility for their safety?”

He added that due to improper funding and a lack of job opportunities post-research in India, many scholars decide to pursue research from other countries.

Not satisfied with assurances

Though the DST has promised a positive change in the near future, the researchers said that the department needs to do more than assurances and acknowledgments.

Researchers, who were present at the meeting, told EdexLive that the department did not give any concrete solution to the concerns raised by the AIRSA representatives. While DST acknowledged all the points, it added that it might not be the concerned agency and would forward the concerns to other concerned ministries.

“Just acknowledging our problems is not enough, they should take sound steps to resolve the number of issues that were highlighted at the meeting. One of the major issues is that many premiere research institutes like IIT, and IARI, function autonomously and there is nobody to coordinate between all these institutes. We have demanded that an agency be put in place for this purpose,” explained Dr Mandeep Singh.

AIRSA also demanded special attention to the stagnant state of the non-NET fellowship, which has remained unchanged for over a decade at Rs 8,000 and called for an urgent revision of this fellowship to align with the current cost of living.

However, they were informed that they should approach University Grants Commission (UGC) for this concern. The association will be issuing a letter to UGC Chairman, M Jagadesh Kumar, regarding the issue, they informed.

Related Stories

No stories found.