Home / Nation / Smriti Irani relents to researchers’ demands, hikes fellowships retrospectively

Smriti Irani relents to researchers’ demands, hikes fellowships retrospectively

New Delhi,Kanchan Srivastava(dna): After two weeks of nationwide protests and an aggressive Twitter campaign by over 1.5 lakh research scholars across India, the ministry of human resources and development finally relented to their demands and has decided to give them a hike with effect from October 1, 2014. The ministry had earlier said the hike in scholarship would be effective from February 1, 2015.

dna, on February 20, had reported the researchers’ plight. The report was widely shared on web and social media.

What has the govt promised?
As per the revised circular issued by the ministry of human resources and development on Monday evening, the junior research fellowship has been increased to Rs25,000 from Rs16,000, while the senior research fellowship has been hiked to Rs28,000 from the existing Rs18,000 a month.
To spread the word, the ministry took to Twitter, putting up the circular at 9.55pm.

What prompted the move?
The late-night efforts appear to be a quick attempt to curb the “negativity” towards the government and create goodwill among the high-skilled Indian youths in the long term.
The researchers had started a Twitter war on National Science Day, February 28, against the Centre and prime minister in general, and MHRD and Smriti Irani in particular. #RIPresearch and #RIPscience were doing the rounds to embarrass the government. Researchers had closed down all national labs on Monday to show their anger.

What was the protest about?
Over 1.5 lakh researchers from IITs, AIIMS, DRDO, JNU, NITs and other prestigious institutions, including universities, had launched a nationwide protest from February 16, alleging that the government had failed to keep its promise of giving 50% hike in scholarships as announced in August 2014 by the union science and technology ministry. Following protests, MHRD issued a circular on February 18, which said the hike would be effective from February 1, but students had refused to accept it.
Researcher from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, Siva Ranjan Upala, who was leading the protest, had gone on a hunger strike in Delhi for a week. “The move is welcomed, but the whole process of getting the hike highlights the fact that our system can’t work unless people push it through aggressive protests and hunger strikes. This is not what we expect from our government,” he said.

Institutes will have to loosen their purse strings to give arrears
The cash-strapped MHRD has asked individual institutes to cough up the additional cost owing to the revised hike (arrears of four months). The March 2 circular of MHRD states, “The additional cost on account of this revision may be met by the individual institutes from their existing budgetary grants for 2014-15.”

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