Research fellowship hike: Timeline of all that has happened so far

For months now, research scholars across the country have been sending representations to the DST and other concerned ministries demanding immediate actions
Read the details | Credit: Edex Live
Read the details | Credit: Edex Live

Researchers in India are waiting for a hike in fellowship, which was expected to be implemented in January 2023. As per the recent update, the wait is yet to conclude for the PhD scholars as the Department of Science and Technology (DST) notified that they will release an update on the issue within three weeks.

Usually, the research fellowship is revised every four years to keep up with inflation rates and rising living costs. Last time, the research fellowship was hiked by 24 per cent in January 2019.

For months now, research scholars across the country have been sending representations to the DST and other concerned ministries demanding immediate action. Many protests and Twitter storms have also been organised by the researchers.

While we all wait for an update from the DST about the fellowship hike and Indian researchers’ future, here is a timeline of events and protests that have happened so far:

August 29, 2022 — Letter issued to authorities: The All India Research Scholars’ Association (AIRSA) wrote to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) putting forward four major demands. These included a regular disbursal of fellowship every month, revision of research fellowship every four years without a need for agitation, development of infrastructure and policies for research scholars, and proper medical facilities in research institutes.

October 8, 2022  Twitter campaign started: After receiving no concrete response from the authorities despite several efforts by the association, AIRSA resorted to a Twitter campaign on October 8 and 9, 2022 demanding that their issues be addressed.

October 11, 2022 — Second reminder sent to DST: After hundreds of tweets flooded Twitter asking for a hike in fellowship, AIRSA sent a second reminder to the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The letter stressed the same issues and demanded that the authorities take necessary steps to address their concerns.

February 2, 2023  Protest by PhD scholars: The PhD scholars at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics raised their voice against the delayed hike in research fellowship highlighting several hardships being faced by the research scholars

February 17, 2023  Nationwide protest by researchers: Researchers from several premiere research institutes across India including IIT Delhi, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Tirupati, NISER Bhubaneshwar, IIT Dhanbad, NIT Jamshedpur and several others took part in the nationwide protest against inaction by the authorities. A Twitter campaign was also organised simultaneously by the research scholars.

May 9, 2023  DST responds via Twitter: Following several efforts by the researchers, DST finally responded via a tweet asking the researchers to ‘have patience’.

“The issue of the Fellowship hike is top on our priority. @IndiaDST and other departments are already working on it. We appeal to students to have patience. The issue will be resolved soon”, the tweet read.

However, the researchers were unhappy with the response and another wave of protests started following the same.

May 10, 2023  More protests: More research scholars from IIT Delhi and IIT Palakkad held protests after the DST’s response to show discontent with it. IIT Madras also witnessed a protest on May 14 where a number of research scholars participated.

Meanwhile, AIRSA sent several letters to DST asking for an appointment for a meeting in order to discuss the issue.

May 30, 2023  Researchers received support: MP Shashi Tharoor took notice of the ongoing protests by research scholars and took the matter to Twitter calling out the authorities.

“Our stressed-out PhD scholars deserve a long-overdue increase in their stipends. The revision was due in 2022 after an already delayed raise in 2019.  How can they meet their daily needs & undertake research amid rising inflation?", the tweet stated,

"Bureaucratic callousness & indifference to their plight discourages many from entering into or continuing in the field of research. The government needs to set up a mechanism to oversee regular revisions & immediate implementation of the promised stipends. This is indispensable for a well-funded independent research environment in the country,” the tweet went on to read.

June 1, 2023  AIRSA meets DST, assurances given: After a number of demands, the DST held a meeting among higher officials like Secretary Chandra Srivari and 12 AIRSA representatives. The association put forward a number of concerns at the meeting.

The DST assured the researchers that an update will be released within three weeks and concerned ministries will also be informed.

June 2, 2023  Researchers unhappy, protests continue: Even after the meeting with the DST official, the researchers were not satisfied with the assurances and demanded concrete steps to be taken immediately.

More protests continued at Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology (SVNIT), Surat.

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