In Pune, on 16th January 2019, about 300 research students of its premier institutes – NCL (National Chemical Laboratory), IISER (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research) and Savitribai Phule Pune University marched in silence. While marching they held banners with slogans like, “Hike in fellowship is our right!”, “Jab hum hai pareshan, to kaise aage badhe vigyan (How will science go ahead, if its scientists do not have mental peace?)”, “Sabki hai yehi pukar ab toh badha do humara pagaar (All are demanding, at least now increase our fellowships)”, “Unite for research scholars’ Respect and Dignity”, “What does the future of research scholar in India hold?”, “Fellowship is our right, and this is not to be begged but to be fought and won!”.
“Black Day for research- 16th January” was decided to be observed in the nation today. The protest march in Pune was a part of the struggle of thousands of PhD research scholars from across the country who marched today in support of their just demands. Thousands of students have gathered at MHRD in Delhi and have announced an indefinite hunger strike. Similar protest actions were taken up in various institutes across the nation today. The demands of the protesting students are:
- Uniform hike in PhD fellowship; the fellowship should be inflation-adjusted regularly.
- The revised fellowship should be effective from April 2018 and all students must receive arrears.
- Timely disbursement of PhD fellowship by all funding agencies should be ensured.
The march in Pune university ended with handing over the letter of demands to the Pro Vice Chancellor of the University.
Students from across the country have been protesting for the last 5-6 months. Every time authorities from different funding agencies have met the students they have assured fulfilment of their demands. But to date none of the demands have been met.
The last hike was announced in the year 2014, when the fellowships were revised to Rs. 25,000 for JRF (Junior Research Fellow) and Rs. 28,000 for SRF (Senior Research Fellow). If the hike is calculated as per the increasing inflation rate, the fellowship amount should go up to Rs. 50,000 for JRF and Rs. 55,000 for SRF today. This shows how underpaid research scholars in our country are!
Many organisations and scientists have also come out in support of the students protesting for their just rights.