M. Phil and Ph.D. research scholars working in various universities in India have approached the Minority Affairs Ministry and the Union Grants Commission (UGC) complaining about the delay of about nine months in disbursal of the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF).
The research scholars say this is the first time there has been such a delay. Both the UGC and the Ministry have not given a proper reply to their calls and letters.
Naseera Neeloth, a Ph.D scholar with the Department of Women’s Studies, says she hasn’t got the fellowship since March, 2022. “It used to be regular, the longest gap being two months even during the pandemic. Now, since March, I haven’t got my fellowship despite submitting all documents regularly. I have two kids. It is very difficult to make both ends meet without the scholarship,” she said.
Ishfaq Majid, a researcher from Central University of Gujarat, is also in a similar predicament. “The scholars are at an advanced stage of research and a lot of them are engaged in field work, collecting data. Financial crunch hampers research work to a great extent. A lot of scholars from MANF have been asked to vacate their rooms due to non-payment of rent. Many of us are waiting for fellowship for thesis submission,” he said.
Lok Sabha MP from Kerala E.T. Mohammed Basheer has taken up their grievance with UGC Chairman M. Jagdesh Kumar. He urged Prof. Kumar’s intervention to help the students.
The scholars received a mail from Scholarship Division of Canara Bank attributing the delay in disbursal of fellowship to the change in financial year. The fellowship would be credited soon, they were assured. After about 10 days, the scholars contacted the Ministry of Minority Affairs and were told that the sanction for release of funds to the UGC had been processed. After waiting for five more days, the scholars contacted the Ministry and the UGC and were informed that “An amount of ₹24.61 crore has been approved to the UGC”.
“We were told that we will receive the fellowship very soon. But nothing has happened yet,” Ms. Neeloth said. Another mail from the Ministry said revised procedure for release of funds was under process and the students would definitely receive fellowship very shortly. On July 6, two scholars of MANF visited the UGC and submitted an application with 40 signatures requesting immediate disbursement of fellowship. They were told that fellowship can be delayed for up to two months. “There are some issues between UGC and MOMA and fellowship will be disbursed once they were resolved, they told us,” Mr. Majid said.
He said a senior UGC official told a delegation of scholars that the UGC would no longer be the nodal office for fellowship. “Another official in MoMA informed the scholars that once a nodal agency is established, fellowship will be disbursed. This process can take months,” he added.
Calls to MoMA secretary Renuka Kumar and Joint Secretary in charge of scholarships Niva Singh did not elicit any response. A spokesperson for the Ministry refused to comment.