The Union government has hiked its popular research scholarship — the Junior Research Fellowship — to ₹31,000 a person, a roughly over 20% increase from the existing ₹25,000.
For months, research scholars across the country had organised protests and staged dharnas demanding that the scholarships be hiked as the stipends had not been revised since 2014.
A Wednesday communiqué from the Union Department of Science and Technology, which was coordinating the exercise, said the Senior Research Fellowships (SRF), which are given to research students two years into their doctoral studies, had been hiked to ₹35,000 a month. Stipends for the Research Assistants (who are pursuing postdoctoral studies and have at least three years of research experience) would range from ₹47,000 to ₹54,000 a month.
Revision made once in four years
The scholarships, which are a lifeline for thousands of students pursuing research in the physical sciences, are awarded after students appear for competitive examinations and are generally revised upwards once in four years.
The scholarship fees were last revised in 2014. About 1.25 lakh research scholars are beneficiaries of the fellowships and in percentage terms, this is the lowest increase in fellowships since 2010.
“The hikes were recommended based on inflation. We’d made a recommendation but the final numbers are result of discussion among the Human Resource Development Ministry, the Science Ministry, as well as the Finance Ministry,” Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, told The Hindu .
Mr. Sharma, who headed a committee to recommend the hikes, said from next year there would be a system in place to ensure that research stipends are revised annually, instead of once in four years. Moreover, there was also a recommendation to incentivise researchers with outstanding research publications or whose work resulted in patents.
Denying any budgetary constraints, Mr. Sharma said the extra financial outlay due to the revision was ₹1,500 crores and this would be out of the budgetary allocations of ministries for the existing financial year.
Research scholars to continue protests
Research scholars who had mobilised online and staged protests — including at the Delhi offices of the HRD Ministry — were disappointed. They said they would continue the protests.
“We were promised by various authorities that the hikes would at least be in sync with previous years. That is, a ₹9,000 increase or a 56% increase (from 2010-2014). This is unacceptable and we will continue our protests,” said Nikhil Gupta, a representative of protesting scholars, and a doctoral student at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute, Lucknow.