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Pandemic kept their labs shut for months in 2020, research scholars now plan to demand fellowship extension

Hundreds of final-year research scholars connected to plenty of premier establishments are planning to search a year-long extension in their fellowship interval from funding companies due to delays amid the Covid-19 pandemic. During the nation-wide lockdown and restrictions final yr, all research establishments had been shut between March and September.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), University Grants Commission (UGC), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Ministry of Education (MoE) are among the main funding companies for doctoral and postdoctoral research in the nation. A junior research fellow (JRF) and senior research fellow (SRF) obtain a month-to-month stipend of Rs 31,000 and Rs 35,000, respectively, for a stipulated interval of 5 years, extendable on particular functions.

Late final yr, a few of these funding companies had granted tutorial extensions for a most interval of six months to choose college students, however this era has both expired or is about to expire quickly. However, no official phrase on fellowship extension has been obtained from any of the companies but. Only an extension in fellowship will entitle college students to proceed receiving their stipends.

While many of the funding companies pay stipends by way of direct financial institution transfers to beneficiary college students, some companies like MoE route it by way of the host institute to which the researcher is formally connected — DST, DBT, TIFR-run establishments, autonomous institutes, central or state-run universities.

“I am just two months away from completing the stipulated five-year fellowship. A lot of my laboratory-related works are still pending. Last year, the institutions were not fully operational due to the pandemic and I need more time. I hope final-year students get some respite and extension in the fellowship period as our research work has been affected,” stated a scholar who’s a CSIR Fellow in an institute in Pune.

A couple of scholar teams are presently in talks about taking on the problem of fellowship extension formally with funding companies. Meanwhile, disbursement of fellowship stipends over the last one yr has been erratic and the already pressured scholar group is at their wits’ finish whereas attempting to pursue the matter with their respective companies. This can be as a result of the pandemic has disrupted the executive and financial institution processing procedures required to launch these stipends, stated an official from a funding company.

A primary-year JRF scholar with an agriculture-based research institute stated his CSIR stipend, collectively amounting to over Rs 2.50 lakh, has been pending for 9 months.

“Since the first month of joining as a JRF in July last year, I have not received even a single month’s stipend. All required bills and documents were submitted for the second time in March this year, but there has been no development yet,” stated the scholar, who’s presently at house after the institute was closed due to contemporary curbs to fight the second wave of the an infection.

Many scholars complained that their grievances, despatched by way of e-mail, and repeated cellphone calls to their funding companies had been falling on deaf ears.

“I have written a number of emails and made several phone calls to the grievance cell, but have not got any response. I have completed my post-doctoral research but my stipend for 2021 is pending,” stated one other scholar from a college in south India.

The college students unanimously identified that the standing of their fellowship stipends usually confirmed as ‘under processing’ or ‘processed’. Yet, no cash was transferred even after the stipulated interval of processing.

“Normally, once the bill is processed, the stipend amount gets credited to the bank account within seven to 10 days. However, over the past several months, this has not happened even when the bills were said to be ‘processed’. The stipend disbursement has become more haphazard since March 2020,” stated an SRF from an college in Punjab.

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