Plutocratic Governments force our Science Scholars to Hunger Strike

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Scientific Policy Resolution of 1958, one of the world’s most comprehensive policy documents on science, strengthened with Technology Policy Resolution approved by the Parliament in 1968, has made it mandatory that research of a high order will be given “pride of place” in Science &Technology education and training.

Kothari Commission (1964) that laid the foundation of the National Policy of Education in 1968 also stressed upon research as essential to lead S&T education to its desired goal.

The goal was spelt out by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru while delivering the convocation address at Allahabad University in 1946. He had said, “it is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and malnutrition, of illiteracy and obscurantism, of superstition and deadening customs, of rigid traditions and blind beliefs, of vast resources going to waste, of a rich country being inhabited by starving millions”. Nehru’s this clear concept has shaped up Government approach to science education in India and the policy resolutions mentioned above.

But in course of time, as Indian democracy has changed into plutocracy, as compradors have taken over the country, research scholars in science are being neglected and harassed. In these pages there is elaborate exposure on how Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had not co-operated with Central Government in establishment of Indian Institute of Science for Education & Research (IISER) and how exploiting the situation, the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had diverted that institute of research in science to Kolkata to please the Bengal MPs on whom he was depending for survival. This subterfuge was resorted to help the Vedanta University design. As we exposed them threadbare and as netizens took the cue and built up an e-campaign against the treachery, Government of India was forced to save the skin of Manmohan Singh by offering the NISER.

But, sad, when research in science is essential to achieve the goals as mentioned supra, the research scholars are thrown into negligence and they are denied the basic sustenance support.

The ministry of science and technology had taken a decision in Oct 2014 to increase fellowship of research scholars. But funding agencies like DBT, DST, DAE, MHRD, ICMR etc – plutocratic in orientation – did not takek any decision regarding the hike. As research scholars raised protests, reportedly decisions have been taken for hike, but they do not match with decision of the ministry. For example UGC declared to implement from Dec 2014 and MHRD from Feb 2015 instead of implementing from Oct 2015 as decided by the ministry earlier.

science scholars in hunger strikeSo in the demand of uniformity and transparency, the research scholars of NISER, ILS, IMMT, KIIT, CIFA, CRRI had to stage a protest rally on 18 Feb 2015 from Ram Mandir to Master Canteen. They have staged demonstrations and hunger strikes even in front of NISER and other institutes. In a convention they have adopted resolutions that are as speaking as relevant. We are posting their Press release verbatim here below, so that the people may know, how the governments, both of Mr. Narendra Modi and Naveen Patnaik ignore the importance of research in science.

Press Release on Hunger Strike by NISER Research Scholars on 23rd February 2015

1) All the Research Fellows of India have united under the banner of Research Scholars of India in demanding for Fellowship Hike which is pending since 2010. Although DST and RSI had agreed upon implementing Salary Hike from 1st October 2014, so far it has not been implemented. RSI had called for a Research Blackout on 20th February, which we are observing today in the form of complete Blackout of Research work.

2) RSI is orchestrating an indefinite protest from 18th February which includes 10 points agenda. In support of this call for protest, on 18th February the Research Scholars throughout Bhubaneswar had held a peaceful march from NISER to Master Canteen.

3) Today’s hunger strike is to support Shivaranjan Upalla (a PhD student from IISER Mohali) who was on Hunger Strike from 16th-22nd February. He is in critical condition and is hospitalized now. There are other research scholars from Indian Institute of Science, IIT Mandi who are still on hunger strike in support of RSI agenda. We will also have a candle light march in the evening in support of RSI and Shivaranjan.

4) The ten point agenda put forward by RSI demanded for hike in fellowship with equality among all funding agencies; however DST, ICMR and DBT have announced fellowship hike w.e.f. 1st Oct 2014. On the other hand UGC announced the hike from 1st Dec 2014. MHRD announced fellowship hike wef 1st Feb 2015. Although MHRD memorandum was withdrawn after meeting on 19th Feb 2015, there are still differences on date of implementation among different funding agencies. ICAR, CSIR and DAE have made no announcement till today.

5) Why in front of this institute?
Our institute of DAE funded and we are trying to channelize our demands to higher officials of DAE through our director for implementation of fellowship hike as soon as possible. NISER research scholars get fellowship from different funding agencies and hence it is important that there is equal disbursal of fellowship among all scholars.

6) How long will this protest continue?
We will continue protest till our demands are met and as and when RSI calls for it so that all the research scholars of India are benefitted equally by fellowship hike.

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