Government hikes research fellowship by 24 per cent after months-long protest, scholars to go on hunger strike

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Published: January 30, 2019 6:55:06 PM

After months-long protest, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has increased the stipend offered to research scholars by almost 24 per cent.

Protest at IIT BHU (Facebook/ hrf.india)

Research scholars from across the country including from elite institutes like Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) were protesting for a hike in the monthly stipend that they are awarded. After months-long protest, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has increased the stipend offered to research scholars by almost 24 per cent.

During the protests, they were demanding a hike to Rs 50,000 and Rs 56,000 for JRF and SRFs respectively. However, as per the revised rate, the Senior research fellows (SRF) will be getting Rs 35,000 monthly, while the Junior Research Fellows (JRF) will be getting Rs 31,000 from January 1, 2019, onwards. Previously the JRF and SRFs used to get Rs 25,000 and Rs 28,000 respectively as their monthly stipend.

Nikhil Gupta, the national representative and coordinator of research scholars of India, currently working for the Centre of Bio-Medical Research, an IIT Madras alumni, told Financial Express Online, “We are about to launch a nation-wide protest in a few days, a few representatives will go on an indefinite hunger strike – until now we were doing a relay hunger strike.”

He wrote on Facebook, “Research Scholars of India, through the scientific community, is taking action to continue to protest against the possible implications of legislation on Fellowship Hike issue going through the Ministry of Human Resources and Development & Ministry of Finance, Government of India.”

In December, the DST secretary Asutosh Sharma met a group of research scholars from across the country and promised a reasonable hike in their stipend along with timely disbursal of funds. “He even promised to set up a committee to look after the scholars’ problems – but even that is not taken care of on this Official memorandum,” Gupta added.

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This hike that the department offered will only be applicable for the scholars working on research and development programmes of the central government.

However, the researchers still do not have any claims to DA, HRA, bonus or retirement benefit, moreover, the department might as well reconsider the number of scholarships offered for “budgetary outlays”.

A JRF is promoted to be an SRF after two years, and an external assessment. To continue receiving that SRF stipend the scholar needs to go through annual assessments. The last hike that the research fellows got was in 2014 at the rate of 56 per cent – they were offered to choose between the 56 per cent hike or a lump sum Rs 9,000 hike. They were also offered the same this year, however, they got a hike of Rs 6,000, which translates to 24 percent.

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