JNU students protest disruption of MPH fellowship

The fellowship is critical for students pursuing the course as it involves six months of fieldwork requiring proper financing
The JNUSU notification highlights a susceptible reason for the confusion surrounding the disbursement of the fellowship
The JNUSU notification highlights a susceptible reason for the confusion surrounding the disbursement of the fellowshipEdexLive Desk

A new issue has arisen within the corridors of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), as students from the Master of Public Health (MPH) program under the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health (CSMCH) allege a cessation of their UGC non-NET fellowship, amounting to ₹5,000 per month. This grievance, echoing for the past 1.5 years, was brought to light by a concerned student in a conversation with EdexLive.

The student, Pankaj Mishra, a PhD student from the CSMCH department, shed light on the situation, attributing the issue to administrative changes within the School of Social Sciences (SSS). Mishra highlighted the appointment of Kaushal Kumar Sharma as the new Dean of SSS in 2023, coinciding with the onset of the problem.

A social media post by the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) read that the turn of events could be accorded to the commencement of the office of the new Dean of SSS. Thereafter, the fellowship was abruptly halted by the administration.

“It has become more confusing for the students as there has been no explanation, no orders or notifications issued before the fellowship was revoked. The money that they could have used for their expenses for their field research or hostel fees is now being financed by them. It is difficult...” lamented Pankaj, encapsulating the predicament faced by the affected students.

Confusion prevails

The disbursement of fellowship at JNU has sparked confusion and debate among students and faculty alike. The JNUSU issued a notification raising concerns over the allocation of fellowship funds, particularly for MTech and MPhil students.

The JNUSU notification highlights a susceptible reason for the confusion surrounding the disbursement of the fellowship. According to an ordinance issued by the university, the fellowship was originally granted to MTech and MPhil students. However, contention arises regarding the discontinuation of the MPhil program at universities and its implications for granting the fellowship to MTech students.

To notify the readers, the MPH course after completion is recognised as equivalent to an MTech course.

“Students who have completed their MBBS, BDS and students from humanities apply to this course, although humanities students would be required to complete their masters’ degree before pursuing this. A lot of weightage is given to this course,” said the PhD student who also pursued his MPhil from JNU.

The importance of the fellowship in supporting research endeavours at JNU was underscored by Mishra, a student involved in the program.  Mishra emphasised the significance of the fellowship, particularly for courses involving six months of extensive fieldwork. “The department has previously contributed to various research areas including Tuberculosis and Polio. The fellowship is important for the development of our research but also for our sustenance,” said Mishra.

Dean denies responsibility

Members of the JNUSU have constantly denied having any responsibility in this regard. On Tuesday, May 21, the JNUSU, along with the SSS councillors, joined the MPH students to discuss and resolve the issue with the Dean. During the meeting, the Dean repeatedly passed the buck to other administrative sections, further exacerbating the situation.

The JNUSU condemned these actions as alleged labelling them as alleged attempts “to strangle academic pursuit by consistently suffocating students into fund crises; to systematically dismantle a department like the CSMCH which provides a progressive look out into the field of social medicine through its rigour and quality of work.”

Today, Friday, May 24, about 50-100 MPH students along with JNUSU members and students from other departments confronted the Dean. In response, the administration pledged to convene a meeting with higher officials to reach a consensus regarding fellowship disbursement.

“The Dean assured us that we will be given a decision by Monday, May 27, by 4 pm,” said Pankaj, to EdexLive. “The JNUSU members have also called for a hunger strike if the fellowship is not reinstated,” he added.

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