NEW DELHI: Former UGC member M M Ansari today hit out at HRD Minister Smriti Irani accusing her ministry of interfering in the affairs of the University Grants Commission by ordering to repeal the decision taken on non-NET fellowship issue.
Ansari, who has earlier been critical over the functioning of the Ministry, has once again questioned the working of the Minister, saying, "The attitude and behaviour of the Minister is unbecoming of an official of this stature."
"The HRD Minister has snubbed the UGC for its decision on non-NET qualified research students, which tantamount to interference in the functionality of an autonomous body. "UGC's decisions are taken in the presence of Higher Education Secretary and other members who are also appointed by the MHRD. What is the fun of having an apex body like UGC if its decision are to ridiculed and discarded by the government," he said.
His outburst against the Minister and her Ministry came at a time when PhD aspirants have mounted a strong protest against the UGC decision to discontinue the non-NET fellowship programme, with the agitation entering the tenth day today. Appearing to support the non-NET candidates, Ansari also questioned the disparity in the fellowship amount given to NET and non-NET category students.
"When both the category students are getting the same degree, then why there should be a disparity in the fellowship amount?" he asked. Coming out in support of the agitating students, another former UGC member Yogendra Yadav claimed that when he was a member of the Commission, a committee was formed to "expand the scope of the NET and Non-NET fellowships" but it never happened.
"On the contrary UGC decided to do away with the fellowship. What an expansion of the scope it was? I have been a member of the UGC, I know how things work there. The moment you raise a voice, you are removed. But untill there is noise from the streets, nothing happens in this building," Yadav, who went on to join AAP and was later removed from the party, said while addressing the students.
"I realised it being its member that the UGC was not the highest academic body but a bureaucratic or clerical office working at whims and winks of MHRD," he said. UGC had resolved to discontinue the scheme of non-National Eligibility Test (NET) fellowship, which is provided to those undertaking research in central universities across India, in a meeting held on October 7, contending that the fellowship programme was discriminatory in nature and lacked uniformity among universities in the selection process.
The Commission had also cited shortage of funds as the reason behind inability to provide fellowships, triggering protests last week by the students from universities across Delhi demanding that the decision be revoked. Under the scheme, financial assistance was provided to students undertaking MPhil and PhD of Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 per month respectively.
PhD students got assistance for four years and MPhil students for 18 months. They also got a contingency amount per year to help them carry out their research. The government had yesterday directed UGC to not discontinue any fellowships and also notified constituion of a five-member panel to review all existing fellowships.
Calling the government's announcement an "eyewash", the students have refused to call off their agitation demanding the fellowship amount be increased and the review committee's recommendations not to consider economic and merit means for the grant.