SFI CEC urges all the state committees to launch a concrete campaign in the university centers, research institutes, NITs, IITs regarding the necessity to increase the non-net fellowship and regular disbursement of other scholarship owing to the financial burden that is being imposed on a daily basis on the research scholars in the following paragraphs below.
Non-NET fellowship scheme was introduced by the UGC in 2006 to financially help students who do not avail any other fellowships like UGC JRF/SRF, CSIR JRF/SRF, etc. Owing to the growing financial burdens on the research scholars the HRD ministry has increased the fellowship received by students on the basis of NET-JRF (as clearing only NET does not give any added financial help) , but there was a serious negligence in consideration with respect to fellowship holders without the JRF. Not only this, in October, 2015, the UGC even decided to discontinue the non-NET fellowships which got restored following huge protests carried out by the students across the country. A committee was even formed to review the non-NET fellowship and was supposed to deliver by December, 2015 but there was no change in status of the non-NET fellowship even after that.
Ever since the onset of this government there has been a conscious attempt to destroy public funded universities and shift towards a privatized environment in the academic space. In order to achieve so, the government has resorted to cuts in funding by cuts in budgetary allocation in higher education which in turn-imposed cuts in financial aid to public universities as well as decrease in no of fellowships, followed by seat-cuts and all in turn concluded into added financial burden on students pursuing higher education. The recommendations by Kothari commission have clearly mentioned that for higher education to prosper and benefit all sections of the society, there must be a budget allocation of 6% of GDP for education in India, but successive governments have failed to implement so. For instance, the budgetary allocation for education in comparison to 2015-16 went from 3.1% of GDP to 2.6% of GDP in 2016-17. In absolute figures, the numbers went down from Rs 1,10,351 crores in 2015-16 to Rs 85,010 crores in 2016-17. It should be noted that the fund allocation in 2017-18 was merely Rs 79,585 crores. Not only this, the scheme of declaring India’s prime universities as financial autonomous has pushed universities towards self-financing modes where the universities will have to generate their funding through excessive fee-hike which will not include hike in admission fees but fees for availing basic facilities like internet, distilled water for labs, etc. Along with the factors mentioned above, inflation has also added extra financial burden on the researchers. According to a report by RBI there has been an inflation of 28% in the last 5 years since 2013.
Apart from that, although all the students (which include students with NET/JRF and also students without that) gets admitted through the same nation-wide examination test for individual universities, the difference in not-NET fellowships holders and the others creates a space of hierarchy and discrimination among researchers which is very unhealthy for any academic spaces of higher education. This discriminatory practice towards the non-IIT institutions has to be stopped. Though it is not surprising looking at the nature of the ruling classes in India, but it is not just to discriminate researchers when researchers across unitedly are contributing to the education of the society.
Hence, the government has to intervene in the following matters with urgency:
· Non-NET fellowships should be increased by at-least 50 % from the current session.
· A hike according to the inflation of last 4 years and regular disbursement of fellowship of JRF, CSIR and ICCSR or ICHR has to be done.
· A parity of amount needs to be maintained while awarding scholarship across the higher education institutes.
· The notification for scholarship like MANF, RGNF or SVSGC which has a particular target population cannot be untimely and irregular.
· More scholarship in the post graduate level has to be ensured for the people who are coming from weaker financial section of society with preference to those from marginalized communities and to increase the present post graduate level scholarships according to the inflation of last 4 years.
VP Sanu (President) Mayukh Biswas (General Secretary)