“Government raises slogans of ‘Jai Anusandhan’(Hail Research!) one day at the Indian Science Congress, and put research scholars seeking legitimate rights behind bars on the very next– isn’t that an act of hypocrisy,” wonders aloud a PhD student on a hunger strike at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.
Nature, internationally known science publication has described Modi government’s science budget as unimpressive. Where South Korea spends 4% of their GDP on Research and Development amounting to 91 Billion USD, United States spends 522 Billion USD which is 2.7% of their GDP, India’s R&D expenditure at 66 Billion USD is not even 1% of the GDP. It is quite astounding to acknowledge that India’s GDP expenditure on R&D per capita is even lower than Montenegrothe country which invests the least on R&D.
Some 300 research scholars at IISC on Friday protested the arrest of researchers in Delhi and planned to form a human chain on Sunday to protest against the Government’s indifference. The striking scholars however can be seen carrying their laptops, books etc. and continuing their research work at the protest site. With the Government having turned a deaf ear to their demand, researchers are now planning a march in the national capital. “We should be in our labs and not running from pillar to post for our dues. But the Government has left us with no choice,” rues one of them.
They have been restive since April, 2018 but pleas of research scholars for an upward revision of government funded PhD emoluments were ignored. Scholars say they wrote letters to Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, Dr. Satya Pal Singh, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, DG, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science & Technology & Earth Sciences (DBT, DST), Prof. D P Singh, University Grants Commission (UGC) and Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India through the Director of IISc but they did not hear from any one of them.
Research scholars argue that they opt for research by sacrificing work and family. Due to inflation, the expenditure such as tuition fee, hostel and mess charges, logistics including expenses borne by students from their pocket for conferences etc. have steadily and steeply increased every year. But the Government is loath to revise and increase the scholarships.
Current emoluments under MHRD, DST, DBT, CSIR and UGC and other government scholarships for PhD programme is ₹25,000/- (JRF) and ₹28,000/- (SRF) per month. Researchers are asking for ₹45,000/- (JRF) and ₹55,000/- (SRF), considering inflation and disburse arrears of such emoluments effective from dates in line with the 7th pay commission. The hike in stipend, scholars say, may encourage bright postgraduate students to take up research over lucrative jobs.
Under the NDA Government, ministers have made a laughing stock of themselves by giving statements which are unscientific, raising questions on their approach, understanding and attitude to science and scientific research.
Dr. Satya Pal Singh, MoS HRD denounced Darwinism because nobody, he said, had seen apes turning into human beings. Tripura CM Biplab Deb declared that the Internet and satellites existed in the days of Mahabharata. Andhra University VC G Nageshwar Rao, a guest speaker at this year’s Indian Science Congress claimed that Kauravas were born due to stem cell and test tube technologies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself of course had said that genetics was known in ancient India and a plastic surgeon fixed an elephant head on Hindu God Lord Ganesha.
There is no Indian university in the top 200 list of Times Higher Education Rankings of 2019. Privatisation of institutions is being promoted by the Government and a blast at Indian Institute of Science, which took one life last year illustrated the risks of the policy which promoted a private company on govt campus at public cost.