Since last ten days Ph.D aspirants have mounted a strong protest against the UGC’s decision to discontinue non-NET fellowship programme. As a consequence of the ongoing agitation, former UGC member M M Ansari outburst his anger against HRD Minister Smriti Irani and her ministry. He accused HRD ministry for interfering in the affairs of University Grants Commission by ordering to cancel the decision taken on non-NET fellowship issue. Another reason behind the hit-out is that the government ordered UGC to not discontinue any fellowships and also notified constitution of a five-member panel to review all existing fellowships.
Earlier also Ansari has many times raised fingers over the functioning of HRD ministry and has once again questioned the working of the Minister. He said, “The attitude and behaviour of the Minister is unbecoming of an official of this stature.” As he is in the support of the non-NET candidates, he raised the question that “When both the category students are getting the same degree, then why there is disparity in the fellowship amount given to NET and non-NET category students ?”
Ansari called the announcement made by the Government ‘eyewash’. Even students have refused to discontinue their agitation. Rather no students are demanding that the fellowship amount should be increased and that selecting candidates’ economic and merit means for the grant should not be considered by the review committee.
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UGC is in itself an autonomous body and HRD Minister has snubbed UGC for its decision on non-NET qualified research students, which tantamount to interference in the functionality. Further Ansari said, “UGC’s decisions are taken in the presence of Higher Education Secretary and other members who are also appointed by the MHRD. What is the fun of having an apex body like UGC if its decision is to ridiculed and discarded by the government.”
In the meeting held on October 7, UGC took the decision to discontinue the scheme of non-National Eligibility Test (non-NET) fellowship, which is provided to those undertaking research in central universities across India. The decision was taken because the fellowship programme was discriminatory in nature and the selection process of students by the participating universities was not same.
Another reason cited by UGC behind inability to provide fellowships is the shortage of funds. The decision led to triggering protests last week by students from universities across Delhi demanding that the decision be revoked. Yogendra Yadav, another former UGC member is in support of agitating students, he claimed that when he was a member of the Commission, a committee was formed to ‘expand the scope of the NET and Non-NET fellowships’ but it never happened.
Yadav further said, “On the contrary UGC decided to do away with the fellowship. What an expansion of the scope it was? I have been a member of the UGC, I know how things work there. The moment you raise a voice, you are removed. But until there is noise from the streets, nothing happens in this building.”
Under the scheme, financial assistance of Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 per month is been provided to students undertaking M.Phil and Ph.D respectively. The duration of the assistance given to M.Phil students lasts for 18 months while that to Ph.D Scholars is for four years. Every beneficiary was given contingency amount per year to help them carry out their research.