‘Occupy UGC’: A Struggle To Save Research in India
ALL the Day, All the Night - Occupy UGC’ has become a popular slogan and is reverberating on university campuses across the country. This slogan emerged out of students’ anger against the decision of UGC, under the direction of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, to discontinue non-NET scholarship. Though there is an immediate economic demand of the student community which triggered this movement, its scope and scale have become much larger than the immediate concern. The struggle now is not merely against a particular decision. Rather the agenda now is to save research in Indian universities and research institutions from the clutches of finance capital and its diktats. What is at stake hence is the very idea of ‘research’ and the ‘research scholar’.
For growth of any nation and equal development of all sections of society, the country should know its problems and possible solution. It is equally true for problems of society as well as problems of science and technology. To serve this purpose, basic research in humanities and science plays an important role. Through basic research in humanities and science, we can address our problems of hunger, poverty, social evils, health care, etc. This basic research is the mandate of our research institutions and universities. Universities play a greater role and are very important in progress of any nation. They are not merely the degree-awarding centres but institutions for developing nation builders. According to Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan “universities are known for the creation of knowledge”. Universities by definition are centres of critique, and questioning hierarchies and the status quo is central to that process.
In these research institutes and universities, there are thousands of research scholars who are involved in research under M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes. It is the duty of the government to support these research scholars financially as research work is a long term process and needs immense patience and concentration. These students are at such juncture of life where they are concerned about their livelihood as they cannot ask for it from their family. And the hard reality is that most of their families are not in a condition to support them in this working age. So the state is required to support them, only then they can wholeheartedly immerse themselves in honest and genuine research.
For this support in university, there is provision of fellowship offered by UGC and CSIR which constitute major portion of all the available scholarships. To avail this scholarship, students have to qualify examination conducted by CSIR and UGC twice a year for JRF/SRF. But the reality is that this examination ‘eliminates’ more people than it ‘selects’. This process is also questionable and its main aim seems to eliminate students out of the channel of research rather than to provide them opportunity. This examination is based on multiple choice questions and students have to choose one right answer out of given options. Various studies have indicated that success depends upon cheap guides available for clearing the exam and that not all students showing research aptitude or skills qualify the exam. Those who can afford coaching with a high cost have a better chance to qualify the exams. It does not mean that all who have qualified JRF are not capable. But this is also true that success in these exams depends more upon such quickfix skills to choose an option. For those who are unable to qualify these exams and make a way to so-called ‘merit’ list, these non-NET fellowships provide a breather. They get a monthly grant of Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 for M.Phil. and Ph.D., respectively. This amount is given to Ph.D. students for a period of four years and to M.Phil. students for 18 months. In addition, they get annual contingency fund to purchase books, journals, for printing and photocopy purpose. This is a very small amount but is very crucial and serves as lifeline for many research scholars.
In this scenario, this decision of UGC will adversely impact the research scholar as well as research in
It seems that these steps are part of a broader economic policy followed by the NDA government to leave all things under the control of market, which include research and education. The government is directing research institutions and universities to generate funds for research on their own. At the time when UGC is facing resistance of students against this infamous decision, news came about the direction of the Ministry of Science and Technology to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to generate half of the funds for its labs on its own. Labs are directed to collaborate with industries and market for joint research ventures. The Ministry has directed, in the so-called ‘Dehradun Declaration’, to emphasise on ‘research for profit’ for the next two years and had signed up to “develop a revenue model in a business-like manner with a clear cost benefit analysis”. In this meeting on June 6, besides officials of the Ministry and scientists of CSIR, an organisation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was present. What is more worrisome that they were not only present there but actively participated in the discussion
s to ensure the idea of ‘indigenous science’.
These directions mean that research in universities and research institutions is left on the mercy of market. They have to take up projects funded by private funding agencies and private companies. Universities also have to follow the same route to support their research scholars and research. When funding will be coming from this route, then priority of research will be decided by these funding agencies. Priorities of state and general public interests will not be the focus of research in future. This raises basic question on the very aim of research.
The state of research is pathetic in
The need of hour is to intensify and expand the research oriented higher education in the university system. Such intensification and expansion would be possible through infusion of massive public investments that would ensure quality and help larger number of aspiring universities to excel, instead of remaining limited to relatively small and specialised research oriented institutions. However, both the above-mentioned decisions are contrary to this. This can be seen as nothing but
However, the hope is that these anti-student efforts of the central government will not be successful. After the decision of UGC, students from universities across the country came to protest against this decision. Protesters included not only research and PG students but students from all courses and classes. Along with central universities, students from state universities are also raising their voice against this decision.