Thursday, 02 February 2023

Vikram Singh

‘All the day, all the night-occupy UGC’has become a popular slogan these days and is reverberating in the university centres across the country. This slogan emerged out of students’ anger against the decision of UGC under the direction of MHRD to discontinue the non-NET scholarship. Though there is an immediate economic demand of the students community which triggered this movement, the scope and scale of the movement has become much large than the immediate concern. The struggle now is not merely against the particular decision. Rather the agenda now is to save the research in Indian universities and research institutions from the clutches of finance capital and its diktats. What is at stake hence is the very idea of ‘research’ and the ‘research scholar’.
For growth of any nation and equal development of all sections of society,country should know its problems and possible solution. It is equally true for problems of society as well as problems of science and technology. To serve this purpose basic research in humanities and sciences plays an important role.Through basic research in humanities and science we can address our problems of hunger, poverty, social evils, health etc. This basic research is the mandate of our research institutions and universities. Universities play a greater role and are very important in progress of any nation. They are not merely the degree awarding centres but the centre of developing the national builders. According to the Dr. SarvepalliRadhakrishnan ‘universities are known for the creation of knowledge.’ Universities by definition are centres of critique, and questioning hierarchies and the status quo is central to that process.
In these research institutes and universities there are thousands of research scholars who are involved in research under M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses. It is the duty of government to support these research scholars financially as research work is a long term process and needs immense patience and concentration. These students are at such juncture of life where they are concerned about their livelihood as they cannot ask for it from their family. And the hard reality is that most of their families are not in a condition to support them in this working age. They are involved in social research which is aimed at social welfare so state is required to support them only then they can whole heartily give hundred percent in an honest and genuine research.
For this support in university there is a provision of fellowship offered by UGC and CSIR which constitute major portion of all the available scholarships. To avail this scholarship students have to qualify examination conducted by CSIR and UGC twice a year for JRF/SRF. But reality is that this examination ‘eliminates’ more people than it ‘selects’, this process is also questionable and its main aim seems to eliminate students out of the channel of research rather to provide them opportunity. This examination is based on multiple choice questions and students have to choose one right answer out of given options. Various studies have indicated that success depends upon the cheap guides available for clearing the exam have shown that not all students showing research aptitude or skills qualify the exam. Those who can afford coaching with a high cost have a better chance to qualify the exams. It does not mean that all who have qualified JRF are not capable. But this is also true that success in these exams depends more upon such quickfix skills to choose an option. Those who are unable to qualify these exams and make a way to so called ‘Merit’ are unable to pursue research and for them doors of research are closed forever.
For all those students these non-NET fellowships provide a welcome breather. They get a monthly grant of 5000 and 8000 rupees for M.Phil. and Ph.D.respectively. This amount is given to Ph. D students for a period of four years and to M.Phil.Students for 18 months.In addition to this they also get annual contingency fund to purchase books, journals, for printing and photocopy purpose. This is a very small amount but is very crucial and serves as life line for research scholars whose research careers are saved.
In this scenario this decision of UGC will adversely impact the research scholar as well as research of India. Researchers from deprived backgrounds will be the most hit by the new decision as should be obvious. Especially in the case of women researchers, the lack of financial independence makes them susceptible to familial pressures to leave research. The overall result would be the weakening of research in the country, undermining its knowledge base and intellectual self-reliance even as it makes research degrees inaccessible to the deprived sections of society.According to the UGC’s figure more than 35, 000 scholars are pursuing research under this non- NET fellowship. It means after decision of UGC India will lose these potential scholars of future.
It looks like that these steps of government are the part of a broader economic policy followed by the NDA government to leave all things under the control of market, which include research and education also. Now they are targeting research also. Government is directing research institutions and universities to generate funds for research at their own. At the time when UGC is facing resistance of students against this infamous decision during this time news came about the direction of the Ministry of Science and Technology to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to generate half of the funds for its labs themselves. Labs are directed to collaborate with industries and market for joint research ventures. Ministry has directed in so called ‘Dehradun Declaration’ to emphasise on ‘Research for profit’ for next two years and had signed up to “develop a revenue model in a businesslike manner with a clear cost benefit analysis. In this meeting of officials of ministry and scientists of CSIR, an organisation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was present in the meeting on June, 6. What is more worrisome that they were not only present there but actively participated in the discussions to ensure the idea of ‘indigenous science’.
These directions mean that research in universities and research institutions is left on the mercy of market. They have to take up projects funded by private funding agencies and private companies. Universities also have to follow the same route to support their research scholars and research. When funding will be coming from this route then priority of research will be decided by these funding agencies. Priorities of state and general public interests will not be in focus of research in future. This raises basic question on the very aim of the research.
State of research is in a pathetic condition in India. Innovation and creation of new knowledge are the major areas in which universities in the developed countries have an edge over their Indian counterparts. At its present stage of growth, India and other developing nations require knowledge based development of areas like pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, Nano Sciences, healthcare, genetics, IT etc along with studies in humanities. An alarming trend is the decline in India’s share of world’s research, which stood at 2.2% in 2007, a reduction from 2.3% in 2002. A study on India’s research output by Thomson Reuters in 2010 has estimated India’s global share of scientific publication to be about 3.5% for 2010. On the other hand, China’s share has increased from 14% to 21.1% during the period under study.The number of PhDs produced by India is less than half of those in USA. China’s steady increase in PhDs is worth noting; in 2002 India and China were not too far apart in the number of PhDs. However, by 2007 China had surged rapidly ahead in terms of its research output and is now almost rivallingUSA. Comparison of Indian performance with respect to SCI publications compares favourably with many other emerging economies but not China. Countries like Korea and Brazil are growing their research outputs at higher rates. Therefore, it is important for India to scale up its R&D effort engagement if it has to have a relative advantage over other emerging economies.
This is the need of hour to Intensify and expandthe research oriented higher education in the university system. Such intensification and expansion would be possible through the infusion of massive public investments that would ensure quality and help larger number of aspiring universities to excel instead of remaining limited to relatively small and specialized research oriented institutions.However, both the above-mentioned decisions are contrary to this. This can be seen as nothing but India’s preparation for WTO-GATS meeting to be held in Nairobi in December 2015.
However, the good thing is that these anti-student efforts of central government will not be successful. After the decision of UGC, students from all over Indian universities came to protest against this decision. Protesters included not only research and PG students but students from all courses and classes. Along with central universities, students from state universities are also raising their voice against this decision. Delhi became the centre of the agitation and ‘Occupy UGC’ has emerged as a symbol of protest. Student organisations across the political and ideological lines, came together to wage a decisive struggle. Though absence of ABVP is understandable who first tried to disrupt the agitation, but after seeing full support of students for this struggle, planned to dilute the movement through a fixed meeting with the HRD minister. They were propagating about some promise of minister but agitated students decided to carry forward under the banner of JNUSU, SFI, AISA, AISF and AIDSO. They were thrashed by police twice but were not frightened by the terror of police. During this lathi-charge Delhi state secretary of SFI Sunand, State committee member Prashant Mukherjee, Najeeb, Suresh and Deepanjan Krishnan were severely injured. At the time of writing these lines students were occupying UGC for few days. Students from various universities are spontaneously and voluntarily coming and joining protest. Teachers unions, academicians, social workers and politicians are also coming to venue for solidarity. At a time when society is being dividedbased on caste, religion, dress, food etc. these agitators are presenting a unique example of unity and struggle with full conviction of victory. It is the responsibility of all progressive and democratic people to extend their support for this struggle.