On 18th of this month, Siva Ranjan Upala, a 29-year-old research scholar from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali, led 1.5 lakh other research scholars from IIT Delhi, AIIMS, DRDO, Delhi University, JNU, Jamia Hamdard University on a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. They have been on protest since then. Their aim is to ‘expose’ the central government which ‘failed’ to keep its promise of implementing a 50% hike in research scholarships announced in October last year. Stipends of research scholars have not been increased since 2010 and they have to wait for a whole year to get their monthly stipend.
Indian researchers work round the clock and are grossly underpaid than their foreign counterparts. Most Indians, because of poor facilities and insufficient funds prefer pursuing doctoral studies in foreign labs and those who cannot afford it have to leave it in between to join higher paying jobs. Even Bharat Ratna CNR Rao complained about the pathetic condition of research in India. Regardless of how much we gloat about the “Make in India” campaign, we are not going to have better environment for it without change in the basic infrastructure.
HRD minister Smriti Irani met the protesters on Friday and assured them that she would look into their grievances. But the scholars have decided not to call off the protest till their demands are met, saying such assurances given in the past were never acted on.
The sorry state of research & research scholars in India can also be judge by our failure to produce a Nobel laureate in physics, chemistry or medicine since independence.