Researchers unhappy with paltry rise in fellowships

Researchers unhappy with paltry rise in fellowships

Thousands of scholars from research laboratories across the country would continue with their agitation as they are dissatisfied with the paltry hike in their fellowships announced by the NDA government.

“Since 2006 this is the lowest increase (in percentage terms) in the fellowships. The enhancement was 60% in 2006; 50% in 2007; 33% in 2010 and 56% in 2014. This time its only 24%,” Nikhil Gupta, national representative and coordinator of research scholars of India and a junior research fellow at Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow told DH on Thursday.

A day before, the Department of Science and Technology announced enhancing the emoluments for researchers doing their doctoral or post-doctoral work. For the junior research fellows, who has just begun their research career, the fellowship has been enhanced to Rs 31,000 per month from the current amount of Rs 25,000 whereas senior research fellows with two years of experience would receive Rs 35,000 instead of Rs 28,000.

Postdoctoral scholars — described as research associates with at least three years of research, teaching, design and development experience — have been categorised in three groups – RA-1, RA-2 and RA-3.

Those who are in the first category will receive Rs 47,000 per month whereas RA-2 and RA-3 would get Rs 49,000 and Rs 54,000 respectively. Previously they used to get Rs 36,000, Rs 38,000 and Rs 40,000 respectively.

The money was a pittance even after the hike. In the last four years, the tuition fee for PhD students went up by 276%. The inflation too shot up. Many of the SRF and post-doc students were married and had family responsibilities too, the scholars said.

“Also JRF and SRF come with 30% HRA in most of the places since hostel accommodation is not available. While the JRF and SRF are non-taxable, the money that research associates get is taxable. The research associates also don't get any HRA. There is no medical allowance for any of these research students,” pointed out Nitin Bayal, a senior research fellow at National Centre for Cell Science, Pune who is about to complete his PhD.

The scholars said they would continue with the protests. “Research scholars of India play an important role in developing the nation and we are ignored always. The government is playing with research scholars. We were not able to focus on our work since July,” said Gupta.

The government on its part says that an empowered committee would be set up to decide how the emoluments can be increased in a regular periodicity and how the scholars performing better in the laboratories can be rewarded.

Officials, however, pointed out that a proposal to increase the fellowship amount by 4% every year has been turned down by the Union finance ministry.