Fellowship crisis continues for Research Scholars in India
Mehrazun Nessa Haque
M.Phil / Ph.D Research Scholars across universities are in limbo over months of delayed fellowships. Students belonging to minority, SC/ST communities while alleging bias said that they are being neglected.
A number of research scholars from universities across the country are finding it extremely difficult to financially sustain themselves over delayed disbursement of fellowship money by UGC and the concerned ministries. As per the UGC notification,the fellowship is supposed to be disbursed in the first week of every month.
However, research scholars complain that they rarely get scholarships on time. "I have not got any money for over five months now," said Abu Saleh, a research scholar at the prestigious Central University of Hyderabad, adding "This is not the first time that there has been delay as after every 2 to 3 months this problem arises."
Research scholars who get fellowships from Ministry of Minority Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice, Ministry of Tribal Affairs through Canara Bank appear to have been hit hard this time as many have not got fellowship credited to their accounts for almost six months now. And in the most horrible situation is for the scholars who got selected in 2014-2015 batch.
All the required documents are submitted by them on time and yet they haven't received a single penny. They are without scholarship for 18 months now. The recipients of Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) and Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship (RGNF) are now suggesting bias, and have tweeted and mailed to respective ministries several times but they are given just one answer 'wait for sometime'.
The same answer is being given to them from last 3 months so finally they planned an event on 17th August on social networking platform named 'Chalo Canara Bank, UGC and Ministries' and met their representatives. Scholars from various universities like JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia, Sharda University, Hamdard etc. gathered at Canara Government Business Branch on Monday at 10:30 AM and met the representative who is responsible for fellowship disbursement.
The concerned person showed them the papers as they are asking money but there is no response from UGC and the concerned ministries. The bank also accepted as they don't get the fund on time from higher authorities on time so scholars have to face delay problems. Then the scholars moved towards UGC. Initially they were not allowed to enter in a big group but later on they managed to enter and met Ms Suchita Sitwach in UGC who is responsible for fellowship funds. She listened to the problem and said they are talking with the ministries and problem would be solved by Friday 21st August, 2015.
She assured the scholars that everyone would receive their fellowship this week. Scholars took a sigh of relief and are waiting eagerly for the day after getting assurance. The scholars had prepared the Representation Letter as well which adds, "Although the efforts put towards their Ph.D work by the scholars under the above mentioned schemes is same as that of other Ph.D scholars availing fellowship under different funding agencies (MHRD-Gate and UGC JRF-NET), however, the fellows under the MANF/RGNF have always remained neglected."
Canara Bank officials across the country are saying that they do not have any fund to distribute since the concerned ministries have not released any fund for several months. Minority Affairs Minister, Najma Heptullah had earlier assured the students to look into the matter. Her Ministry, in a written reply to one of the scholars, had said that the MoMA has no fund crunch and they have already transferred the money to the UGC. The latest tweet of Najma Heptullah has again brought the scholars into dilemma as she says that wait a bit as UGC is responsible for delay and DBT is being tried.
The main confusion in fellowship distribution is the involvement of several universities: The Money from concerned ministries goes to the UGC, the nodal agency for all universities, which transfer it to bank for distribution only after certificates are uploaded regularly by the bank. Sometimes universities that are required to sign the required documents also delay the whole process.
Roy Ghosh, another research scholar from West Bengal expressed her
frustration saying that when they call the designated bank branch,
they ask us to call the UGC, which in turn ask us to contact the
concerned ministries. "We are running in circles for weeks now,"
The government, UGC and Bank all are playing blame games and scholars are just getting new dates. Amir R Khan, a scholar from Sharda University, Noida said, "After talking to Ms. Suchita we planned not to visit ministries as she gave assurance and it's important to trust her as well in this situation. But if we don't get our fellowship by this week then next time we would be back again and that would be a bigger protest. Why no one wants to understand our contribution and plays with our research work? Does the government think that doing Ph.D is just a time pass for us?"
Several worried students noted that due to financial issues, they are not able to concentrate on their research. It should be noted that regular research scholars who get any form of fellowships are not allowed to take up any regular job as they are expected to focus entirely on their research. The dark night seems to be a long one for the scholars who are investing their crucial years in research work to make India develop, but, it seems no one understands their contribution and this is demoralising them.