The central executive committee of SFI strongly condemns the latest move of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to scrap Non-NET fellowships for the researchers. SFI urge its units across the nation to be vigilant and be ready to resist any such anti-student moves. Such a move is coming at a juncture when the researchers from all the streams are demanding for an enhancement in Non-NET so that they could pursue their academic endeavour and do quality research. Higher education is already inaccessible to a large section of the society due to paucity of public investment in education and increasing commercialization. Scraping non-NET fellowships will be heavy blow to the researchers in India who are already struggling to survive with the meagre allowances handed out to them.
This latest move should be read in connection with the hardcore neo-liberal policies followed by the present NDA government. The trend has been set by the Budget itself . The budgeted expenditure by the central government on education has seen a colossal decline this year. The Department of Higher Education has seen its allocation cut from Rs. 16,900 crore to Rs. 15,855.26 crore. The fund cuts in real terms (after taking into account inflation) are much larger. The funds allocated to the UGC had stagnated at last year’s levels, which amounts to a cut in real terms. The allocation for the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research has been cut by 25%.The total expenditure on education - Rs.68,968 crores - is a paltry 3.88% of the central budget, a far cry from the longstanding demand of the student community that 10% of the budget be spent on education.
It was pointed out by SFI that the result of such fund cuts will be a worsening of the quality of public education in India, which would then be used as an excuse for further commercialisation and privatisation of education, thus rendering education inaccessible to the vast majority of students in the country. Confirming our apprehensions, the UGC chairman Ved Prakash said a decision was taken in the last meeting of the commission. He said such decision was taken after receiving many complaints saying that merit was not being taken into account in awarding these fellowships.
This meritocratic argument is designed to keep a large sections of students away from entering the field of research and thus paving a smooth way for rigorous privatization. The students get enrolled as researchers only after proving their merit at different levels through the passing of entrance examinations and obtaining qualifying marks. It should also be noted that such superfluous arguments are being made at a time when those who have no qualification except being the ideological henchmen of Sangh Parivar are placed at the top of different educational and cultural institutions. If the government and UGC are really concerned about improving the quality of research in India, it should be done, not by taking away whatever meagre facilities the students of this nation have but by providing them more facilities and scholarships and improving the educational infrastructure with better facilities. It should also be done by strengthening the public education and providing education to all.
The central executive committee of SFI demands the non-NET fellowships be increased immediately and it should be extended to all universities and research centres in India. SFI strongly demands the immediate withdrawal from the move to scrap non-NET fellowships. We appeal to the student community across the nation to be united to defeat anti-student plan of NDA government and UGC. SFI calls upon all its units to rise up against this new assault being launched by the Modi government on students using the UGC.
Dr. V Sivadasan Ritabrata Banerjee MP
President General Secretary