Research scholars of city’s two prominent research institutes,the Indian institute of science education and research, Pune (IISER) and council of scientific and industrial research – national chemical laboratory (CSIR-NCL) staged a silent proteston Wednesday, demanding an increase in their monthly stipend.
The agitation was against the government’s“ignorance” towards research scholars with respect to their monthly stipend, which has remained stagnant for the past four years.
According to the students, every four years, the government has raised the stipend amount by 60 per cent. Earlier, protests were staged at IISERs, including the one in Pune, research scholars across the country received a hike in their stipend from ₹16,000 to ₹25,000.
“The amount which seemed okay in 2014, does not have the same value in 2018 and the government should understand that. For us, this is a full-time job where we dedicate 12 to 14 hours of daily labour, and expecting a hike is the least we deserve,” said student pursuing integrated PhD at IISER Pune.
Currently, several other institutes like theall India institute of medical sciences (AIIMS), Delhi;postgraduate institute of medical education and research (PGIMER), Chandigarh and IISER Kolkata, also participated in the protest drive in their respective cities on different days.
“We have written to the ministry of human resource and development and several other forums seeking help. For now our efforts are sporadic, but if the government continues to ignore us, and does not address our issues before Diwali, then, we will have to stage a united pan-India protest movement,” added another senior research scholar from NCL, requesting anonymity.
The scholars are also demanding a stringent set of laws, and a government body of research scholars to regulate and oversee the process of systematic increment in their fellowship money.“The money is extremely crucial for us, especially when many of us come from far-off places and need to lodge in different cities and run our own expenses. In addition, the fees at IISER also becomes a burden, especially when your are not earning what you deserve,” said another PhD student from IISER. Some of them even complained of the uneven deposition of the said amount monthly.“There are a few scholars who had been waiting for their fellowship money for the last many months, and many here are from rural parts of the country, thus making the need for the money more immediate. Hence, one of the major demands is to have a single regulated council to regulate the increments. The hikeof 60 per cent for the same should also be effective from April 1,” he added.
Jayant B Udgaonkar, IISER Pune director, responded to the protest with support and said,“We need to make sure that good students are not dissuaded from doing research because of money. PhD salaries should also be competitive so that we don’t loose out on people.”