The University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to discontinue non-NET fellowships for M.Phil and Ph.D students at central universities from the next academic session. Students who have been protesting this move has termed it as 'one of the biggest anti-student moves' of the NDA government.
The All India Students Association (AISA) read in the decision a sinister move to make the public education system compliant with the impending WTO-GATS (World Trade Organisation-General Agreement on Trade in Services) under which India has made an offer to open up higher education commercially by classifying it as a tradable service. There is widespread demand for the offer to be revoked.
"This is nothing but another step in the BJP-led central government's series of moves to cut budgetary allocation and restructure higher education to make it inaccessible and destroy its quality . Once the government confirms this, it will be necessary to cut subsidies provided to government-funded universities. The WTO regime necessitates a level playing field for Indian foreign and public private institutes," AISA national president Sucheta De said.
Till now, the UGC granted scholarships of Rs 5,000 a month for M.Phil students and Rs 8,000 a month to Ph.D students."The scholarship is a lifeline for students in all central universities. If this is discontinued, it will be impossible for a vast majority of students to engage in research and knowledge creation," said AISA's Ashutosh Kumar.
AISA sees all the recent reforms by the NDA government in higher education -choice-based credit system, semesterisation and the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan -as steps taken with an eye on the WTO negotiations slated to be held in Nairobi this December.
The Democratic Students Federation also termed the move as a "cruel joke" on students and has planned protests by burning effigies of UGC chairman Ved Prakash.