NEW DELHI: The Union government Wednesday announced a nearly 25% hike in stipend for research scholars and an almost 30% hike for research associates deployed in central science and technology laboratories and institutions, two days after it allowed universities to offer a 50% hike in pay to guest faculty.
While the Wednesday decision will benefit over 100,000 research scholars and doctoral students, the previous decision will benefit some 50,000 plus teachers at colleges and universities.
According to the notification released by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the fellowships for Junior Research Fellow (JRFs) will go up from ₹25,000 to ₹31,000 per month effective January 2019.
Senior Research Fellows (SRFs) will now get ₹35,000 per month instead of ₹28,000 earlier. Similarly, the University Grants Commission has written to all universities to immediately increase the “honorarium" of guest faculty up to ₹50,000 from ₹25,000-30,000 per month.
The decision comes after a series of protests by researchers from leading institutes like the Indian Institutes of Technology, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research and All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who had been demanding a hike of at least 80%.
Similarly, guest teachers at universities have been demanding a pay hike for a couple of years reasoning that they have been shouldering a lot of responsibility at institutions facing up to 35% faculty shortage.
The move may not entirely satisfy the community, but looks like a concerted effort to quell the grievance of teachers and researchers, a key constituent of the salaried middle class, often seen as a vocal group against the central government ahead of elections.
“In 2014, the hike was 56% and despite promising to enhance the fellowship more than what they did the last time, they have announced a 25% hike," said Lal Chandra Vishwakarma, a research scholar from AIIMS, New Delhi.
“It is the lowest hike since 2006 (in percentage terms). Its unacceptable. On the one hand, this government raises the slogan of Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan, on the other it has sidelined researchers," said Vishwakarma, who is also the president of the All India Research Scholars’ Association.
“This is nothing but a political gimmick. The raise should have been announced in October last year," said Mandeep Singh, a Junior Research Fellow at the National Physical Laboratory of the CSIR.
In 2006, the government had raised fellowships by 60%, which came down to 33% in 2010. Fellowships were hiked by 56% in October 2014. However, when the next hike was not announced last October, scholars took to the streets.
“What does the government expect --should research scholars leave their work in laboratories and protest on streets every four years before elections to avail their rights? Breakthrough in research cannot happen if researchers have to struggle for basic research equipment," said Singh.
Scholars demanded that the order be implemented from April 2018 instead of January 2019.
The government has also revised the emoluments for research associates by up to ₹14,000 per month, or around 30% growth. Category one level research associates will now draw a monthly salary of ₹47,000, category two will earn ₹49,000 and category three ₹54,000.
The government has also announced that it will incentivize research output in the form of publications and patents and form an inter-ministerial empowered committee to evolve modalities for implementation. The committee will periodically examine all fellowship matters, including disbursement and quantum of fellowships.
(Prashant K. Nanda contributed to the story)