Students reject MHRD proposal of making non-NET fellowship merit-based, Occupy UGC protest to continue

NEW DELHI: Students are not giving up on their protest against the scrapping of the non-NET fellowship despite the Ministry of HRD saying on Friday evening that it will “revive” it for all universities but make it merit-based.

Students want it re-instated the way it originally was and expanded to include all public universities. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar has already said in a statement that there will be a march and public meeting on the subject on October 25 and also called for a “university-wide” strike on Monday. The Occupy UGC protesters have in generally rejected the MHRD and University Grants Commission’s proposal.

All India Students’ Association, in a separate statement has said, “The UGC itself is trying to now cover up their blatant violation of students’ rights by issuing conflicting and confusing statements to the media while continuing to refuse meet student groups and now introducing absurd logic of merit determined through ‘NET Exam’. It is important to respond to these statements, especially the suggestion to grant non-NET fellowships on the basis of “merit” and not on a universal basis, since we firmly believe that funding for research is a hard won right of ALL research students contributing to a collective process of knowledge generation in this country. The non NET fellowship must be extended to all central and state universities, however, the logic of merit determined through ‘NET’ exam needs to be challenged and defeated!” They argue that the eligibility or ‘merit’ of a research candidate is evaluated — an established — at the time of entrance itself as enrollment is regulated through tests and interviews. “If a student is selected for the course of M.Phil or Ph.D, it means that he/she has been deemed eligible for research and hence the state must facilitate this process of research by way of suitable fellowship that will adequately cover the cost incurred while pursuing research,” says the statement. They further point out that the credibility of the NET – National Eligibility Test — itself has been questioned.

“Let us not forget that the sword of ‘merit’ logic has been used for centuries by the ruling classes to deny entry to those who have been deliberately excluded from the educational and cultural sphere. The oppressed castes, poor people, oppressed minorities, especially Muslims (as pointed out by the Sachchar Committee report), Dalits and women have got the most to lose from this dangerous proposition,” says the statement.

Meanwhile, the student protest has drawn supporters from teachers associations of Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, the Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Associations and over 200 teachers and researchers placed in different universities.