Understanding Occupy UGC Movement & non-Net fellowship

The ‘Occupy UGC’ movement has completed 16 days. So today i.e. November 5 thousands of students from various parts of the country are expected to join march from UGC to Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD). Even on Wednesday protest rallies were conducted at Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia University. The effigy of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was burnt in the wake of action taken against students protesting UGC decision in Kolkata on Monday.

“We are expecting students from all over the country to converge at the ‘Occupy UGC’ site and march to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD),” said Sucheta De – a protestor.

occupy ugc movement for non-net fellowship
Students are conducting a march today from UGC to HRD Ministry office. Image Source – Twitter page of OccupyUGC Movement

The movement is also supported by many writers who returned their Sahitya Akademi Award in lieu of the policies issued by Modi government and among them is Professor Chaman Lal who was formerly associated with JNU. Professor Chaman Lal said, “The RSS Mouthpiece has brought out that JNU is an anti-national place. We condemn this statement. JNU for years has upheld democracy and rights of people either during the Emergency or during the anti-Sikh riots. JNU students have played a major role in the anti-fund cut movement.”

During the 510th meeting held on October 7, UGC decided to discontinue the non-NET fellowship programme. When after two weeks Commission displayed this decision on its official website, many students’ groups launched protests, arguing that the move would discourage poor students from pursuing research. Students also raised their voice for the stipend under non-NET fellowship. Even academicians from campuses across India and abroad issued a statement in support of the students. The protest has been given the title ‘Occupy UGC’.

The justification given by UGC for scrapping this fellowship is that there was little transparency in this scheme. After the students protest reached 55 hours on October 23, Ministry of Human resource and development stepped into the matter. HRD Minister Smriti Irani posted the statement on her twitter account stating that the non-NET fellowship would not be scrapped, and that her Ministry would form a panel to also bring students of state universities within its ambit.

This is not so, even on October 23 during the wee hours of the morning Rapid Action Force picked up UGC protesters. They were then taken to Bhalswa Dairy police station, around 20 km from the protest site.

Students and research scholars are offered financial support by University Grants Commission to pursue higher education via various scholarship and fellowship programmes. Out of all the scholarship and fellowship programmes National Eligibility Test-Junior Research Fellowship (NET-JRF) and non-NET fellowship are among them. NET-JRF is awarded to 3,200 M.Phil and Ph.D students every year based on their performance in NET Exam. In the present time somewhere around 9,000 students are pursuing MPhil and PhD with NET-JRF assistance.

Talking about non-NET fellowship, it was introduced in the year 2006. All bona fide research scholars who haven’t qualified for NET-JRF are eligible for non-NET fellowship provided they seek admission in selected 50 institutions. This programme is limited to M.Phil and Ph.D students. In the present time 35,000 students are covered under these fellowships.

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