Research scholars at Madras varsity are yet to get funds, 2 years after scheme was launched

It is the season of protests. On Monday, M.Phil students and Ph.D scholars at University of Madras protested on their campus for stipend dues of almost a year.

The students said, under a scheme approved by the University Grants Commission two years ago, M.Phil students were allotted Rs. 5,000 and Ph.D scholars, Rs. 8,000 every month. But so far, the students have not received any money.

“The last batch of scholars finished their theses and left without ever being paid the stipend. University officials had promised to pay us by the end of August, after the convocation ceremony, but we have received nothing so far,” said a student.

Many of the research scholars said they joined the courses for the stipend. “Most of us are from poor families in the districts and we hoped to send home some money. We do part-time jobs to sustain ourselves and our research,” said another student.

According to the students, the stipend scheme is being neglected now as the idea was proposed and promoted by the previous vice-chancellor of the University.

“All Central Universities and reputed State universities offer stipends to research scholars to promote their work. A university like ours, which is one of the oldest here, should not keep its students on tenterhooks,” the student said. There are over 1,000 M.Phil students and Ph.D scholars across 53 departments in the University.

Officials at the University, however, said the stipend scheme is aimed only at meritorious students from poor backgrounds, as was decided in a syndicate meeting. “It was publicised wrongly by officials earlier leading to confusion among students,” an official said.

Barely Rs. 2 crore has been allotted for the scheme but the number of research scholars is increasing every year, the official said. “It is not feasible to carry out this scheme with the current funding,” he said.

The official also said heads of departments had been asked to nominate three candidates from every department, and the funds would be despatched soon.

The protesting students said they were asked to submit application forms last year to avail of the scheme benefits. “If it was only for select students, why were we not told about it earlier? The scheme is also listed in the University’s brochure but there is no mention of the selection procedure,” a student said.

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