Caught in between the aggrieved students and UGC over discontinuation of the non-NET fellowship, the HRD ministry today said the decision will be reviewed by an expert panel even as protests by students from universities across Delhi entered the fourth day today.
The HRD Ministry officials said that they are planning to review the programme altogether and strengthen the existing National Eligibility Test (NET) and Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) scheme or create another method of an all-India examination for non-NET qualified candidates.
“The aim is to focus on merit and equity in disbursal of the fellowships and not to discontinue them,” officials said, adding, an expert committee is expected to be set up to review all the fellowship programmes along with the proposal to hold a national examination.
UGC, had resolved to discontinue the non-NET fellowship in a meeting held on October 7, contending that the fellowship programme was discriminatory in nature and lacked uniformity among universities in the selection process.
“Continuing the scheme would have also meant huge financial implications for UGC as the expenditure in 2014-15 alone, was to the tune of Rs 99.16 crore,” said UGC secretary in a communication to the ministry.
The minutes of a UGC meeting in April had clearly stated that recent hike in the rate of scholarships had the potential of adversely affecting other fellowship and scholarship programmes.
“The UGC has incurred an expenditure of about Rs 1,083 crore on scholarships and fellowships alone and that it is going to adversely affect other schemes unless additional resources are made available to the UGC,” the minutes of the meeting had said.
The commission had also flagged the issue with the HRD ministry.
Meanwhile, the protests by students against the UGC move escalated today and led to police detaining scores of them as they tried to enter the premises of the academic body.
The students, camping outside the University Grants Commission (UGC) office here since Wednesday demanding revocation of the move, alleged they were lathi-charged and about 100 of them detained when they tried to go inside to meet the officials.
A senior police official said that around 100 protesters were detained and taken to Bhalswa dairy police station in north-west Delhi. He, however, declined to comment on the allegations of lathi-charge.
The students were later released in the evening. Also, a delegation of students met the UGC officials who assured them that the decision will be reviewed.
Hundreds of students from across varsities in Delhi, including Delhi University, JNU, Ambedkar University, had joined the protest over the last two days and many stayed on there through the Dussehra holiday and even burnt an effigy of UGC chairman Ved Prakash.
The teachers association of various universities also came out in the students’ support today.
The fellowship, which is provided to those undertaking research in central universities across India, was scrapped by UGC in its last meeting.
Under the scheme, financial assistance was provided to students pursuing M.Phil and Ph.D of, respectively, Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 per month. Ph.D students got assistance for four years and M.Phil students for 18 months. They also got a contingency amount every year to help them undertake their research.