Research Scholars Complain Non-Payment Of Fellowships
Various monthly scholarships have been blocked or not disbursed properly for more than six months in different Indian universities, according to a group of research scholars from across the country.
Various monthly scholarships have been blocked or not disbursed properly for more than six months in different Indian universities, according to a group of research scholars from across the country. They have complained about delay in payment of scholarships, issues pertaining to online-offline application process, problems in upgrading Junior Research Fellowships to Senior Research Fellowship, cold response from officials in delivery of fellowships etc. as the educational institutions have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis.
NDTV has talked to research scholars registered in universities including Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Kerala University, Central University of Hyderabad, Pondicherry University and Delhi University, and most of them said the non-payment of the fellowship has put their life out of gear, especially, during this period of pandemic.
“In 2018, UGC had upgraded my fellowship to SRF and disbursed the amount till August 2019. Now the UGC has stopped my fellowship. In March, when I sent an email to UGC, they responded and stated some procedural issues regarding upgradation from the university. My supervisor and chairperson of the centre sent an email to the Faculty Dean for further process, and we have been waiting for a response from the administration since then,” a researcher from JNU said while adding that he has been struggling for financial stability during this period.
“..and now, I have to go for data collection in the next few weeks but there is no response from UGC and JNU administration. We are requesting the concerned administration at least to release the JRF amount, in that case, I will be able to manage my daily expenses at least and the arrears can be released later after the upgradation,” he said.
He is among many from central universities who are facing the same issue after the University Grants Commission (UGC) had sent a letter last year regarding the JRF and SRF scheme which had said the Commission stopped automatic conversion of the status of fellowship from JRF to SRF.
“I joined for Ph.D. in in a Delhi-based central university last December. With lots of difficulty and repeated to and fro mailing, I got the fellowship amount till July and haven't received HRA for the last 9 months. The university is not responding to my mails,” said another research scholar.
‘Online system working, but difficult’
“Central University of Hyderabad has made the submission of continuation certificate online, which means student has to send the signed copy to the supervisor and then the supervisor will sign and forward to HoD and then to the fellowship section. As of now, this is working, but still difficult,” a researcher from Central University of Hyderabad who is availing MANF told NDTV.
However, he has raised a concern regarding House Rent Allowance (HRA) awarded to research fellows.
“Fellowship holders are entitled for HRA as per the guidelines. Those who stay at hostels won't get this HRA. However, due to COVID-19, all the students are asked to vacate the hostels. But there is no measure taken to issue HRA for these students. Students stay at hostel to receive some facilities and thinking of subsidised food at the mess. But once hostel is not functioning, students have to find all this themselves. So, a step should be taken to issue HRA to all fellowship holders,” he demanded.
The Telegraph reported on Thursday that hundreds of research scholars at JNU and JMI have not been getting their fellowship for at least four months because the institutions are yet to take the approval process online amid the COVID-19 crisis.
JNU registrar Pramod Kumar, while responding to the daily, said "the students whose synopsis could not be approved due to the lockdown would be considered as special cases for the payment of arrears".
NDTV contacted a senior UGC official for a response that did not elicit any response.
Research scholars in India avail various fellowships including PMRF, UGC JRF, CSIR JRF, MANF, National Fellowship for OBC students and National Fellowship for Scheduled Caste students. Research scholars are paid fellowships starting from Rs 31,000 (including HRA) per month in various schemes.
The UGC, the national higher education funding and regulating agency, in April had earlier released a list of fellowship schemes for which the funding will be continued. According to a Commission official, the 'continuation of the schemes given till September 30' is an 'interim measure' due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. He had also said that decision regarding some schemes is under consideration and the announcement regarding those will be published soon after a decision has been made.