The UGC ( a statutory body affiliated to Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Human Resources and Development) had a novel scheme launched in 2008 to encourage research based education. The scheme gave stipend to Mphil and Phd graduated who come outside the ambit of National Eligibility Test(NET) cleared candidates.The Non-NET research fellowship was Rs 5000 per month for M.Phil and Rs. 8000 per month for PhD. This scheme was scrapped in the last UGC meeting much to the dismay of many research students who were relying on this stipend to sustain their passion for research.
The UGC decision of scrapping the fellowship has sparked off a massive spirited student movement which started in Delhi from 21st October. The students from different universities in the city gathered for a protest in front of UGC which turned into what is now well known as the #OccupyUGC movement. Students stormed inside the UGC premises and stayed there for more than 48 hours demanding scrapping of the decision. The movement has crossed university as well as organisational boundaries and has generated response from different parts of the country. Spontaneous protest were held in different universities. Teachers in large numbers have also come in support of the movement.
On 23rd early morning at around 6 am the students were forcibly picked up by Delhi police from UGC and were kept in detention for the entire day in Bhalsawa Dairy police station. But this could not stop the expression of protest, as another stream of protesters continued the spirited protest in front of UGC office and ITO.
Cutting the umbilical cord
Pursuing research in India is quite a challenge given the dependence on a job after graduation to meet their daily needs. The challenge is more accute in case of economically vulnerable sections. It is precisely the reason why many students passionate on research are not able to pursue their research ambitions. This stipend though very meagre intends to pull in research minded students to pursue their ambitions, the realization of such ambitions can only be of benefit to themselves and the nation’s research capabilities as a whole.
The bigger picture
Why are Indian students flocking the shores of United States of America to pursue their ambitions? The higher education system encourages and sponsors the graduates besides providing an enabling environment that encourages innovation and creativity. The whole brain drain stems out of the fact that, our education expenditure is one of the lowest in the world and that numbers gets worse when it comes to higher education. The fact that Sathya Nadella and Sundar Pichai could unfurl their capabilities in USA and not in India is because of the lack of purpose and resource allocation for higher education in India. The above scrapped scheme doesnt guarantee that the next Nadella will be in India however scrapping the scheme diminishes our already low chances of creating the next Nadella in India.
TLI hopes this decision is reversed and also reverse all the decision pertaining to scaling down of allocation to Higher Education and MNREGA scheme. TLI requests the Government to keep aside non-issues which has a religious overtones and bring to the front the core issues including issues related to Higher Education. In a world where knowledge and innovation is prime driver of successful economies, such measures is at best regressive