Non-NET fellowship controversy: Kolkata students march in protest

Kolkata, Oct 27 (IANS) A group of student researchers and professors here on Tuesday protested against the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) recent decision to scrap the non-national eligibility test (NET) stipends even after the central government’s announcement that all existing scholarships would continue.

But the agitating scholars said the human resource development ministry’s statement, endorsed by the university regulator, is a “pre-planned distraction to divert the attention of the students who have been up in arms against the government”.

Holding aloft posters and banners that said “WTO Go Back” and “Save Non-Net Fellowship”, the students marched from Chingrighata More in east Kolkata to the UGC’s regional office at Salt Lake in the city’s northeast.

“MHRD has not revoked the UGC decision. It has only issued a circular which states about a review committee which will review both NET and non-NET fellowship depending on some criteria namely economic status, merit and other. We do not accept this,” said a protesting scholar.

The ministry, in a statement on Sunday, said: “The review committee will submit a report to the human resource ministry by December. Irrespective of its recommendations, all existing and continuing fellowships, NET as well as non-NET, would be continued; there will be no retrospective change.”

Extending support to the “Occupy UGC” protest in New Delhi, the agitating students have demanded that the UGC not only restore the scholarship but also the increase fellowship amount.

Under the present structure, students pursuing M.Phil. from a central university are entitled to Rs.5,000 per month and PhD scholars Rs.8,000.

The UGC introduced the non-NET fellowship in 2006 to encourage research in the universities.

About 35,000 students are presently availing of these fellowships.

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