Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while inaugurating the 106th Indian Science Congress at Jalandhar on January 3, said, “Our strong research ecosystem must be developed in such universities and colleges. I call upon the Prime Ministerial Science, Technology and Education Council to discuss this issue in detail and formulate an agenda in collaboration with the MHRD.”
Fast forward to January 16th, more than 2,000 research scholars protesting outside the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s headquarters in New Delhi were arrested. The Research scholars across India demand a hike and for on-time payment of their stipends.
The All India Research Scholars Association (AIRSA) and research fellows from all over India started protesting in front of the MHRD’s headquarters in New Delhi from 11 am on January 16, 2019. They plan to shift base to Jantar Mantar where around 2,000 researchers will be on an indefinite hunger strike till their demands are met.
Nikhil Gupta, National Representative of Research Scholars of India, said, “We were peacefully protesting in front of the MHRD head office when the police arrested us around 4 pm. We were packed into five buses and taken to different police stations including Mandir Marg Police Station and the Parliament Street Police Station.”
Despite promises of a speedy solution by principal scientific advisor K Vijay Raghavan, Department of Science and Technology Secretary, Ashutosh Sharma, Dr Harsh Vardhan (Union Minister DST) and Prakash Javadekar (Union Minister MHRD) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan Jai Anusandhan in support of science and Indian researchers, there has been no response to the demands the researchers had made.
The researchers had planned to protest in front of the MHRD office first and then move to Jantar Mantar — the indefinite hunger strike was an integral part of it. “There have been too many fake promises made to us. No more tweets and no more trying to divide us on the basis of caste, funding agencies or examinations. We have written way too many letters to the departments. We will be releasing an official memorandum during the protest at the headquarters,” said Nikhil.
The research fellows from all over the country are joining hands in the protest. “We are yet to know scholars how many institutes will be physically present here. But we are all together and people from all over the country are in support of your cause,” Nikhil added.
Such is the case of the Indian government on research and education. MHRD promised that the decision would be finalized by the end of 2018. The promise is overdue by 16 days and no positive indication has been received till yet.