Students march to HRD ministry on 17th day of protest

The 'Occupy UGC' protest continued for the 17th day with students marching to the human resource development ministry on Thursday. The protesters have now demanded that the ''review committee'' formed to review the University Grants Commission's decision to discontinue non-NET fellowships be dissolved.

HRD minister Smriti Irani came out for a brief interaction with the students. Irani reiterated the government's stand that the fellowships will not be discontinued and that the recently-constituted five-member panel would review the scope and criteria of the grants.

However, the students said they were not satisfied with the minister's reply and asked for the committee to be dissolved if the fellowships are not being scrapped.

''We have been protesting for the last 17 days. If the government says that the fellowships have not been discontinued then why do they need to review the decision? We demand the panel be dissolved,'' said Shehla Rashid, vice-president of the JNU Students' Union.

Former UGC member and ex-AAP member Yogendra Yadav led the protest march, which saw participation from students of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Ambedkar University and Jamia Milia Islamia, among others.

Yadav was a member of the commission when it was formed to ''broaden the scope'' of non-NET fellowships. Earlier too, he had come out in support of the movement, calling it a step towards changing the face of higher education.

The UGC had decided to discontinue non-National Eligibility Test (NET) fellowships, which is provided to those undertaking research in central universities across India, in a meeting held on 7 October, citing shortage of resources.

Amidst protests by students, the government appointed a five-member panel last week to review the research grants offered by the UGC, which has been asked to continue all existing grants.

The students, however, have kept up with the agitation by calling the government's statement ''an eyewash''. Instead, they are now demanding that the review criterion be changed and the fellowship amount be increased.

The movement has also spread to other parts of the country with similar agitations being organised in Kolkata, Pune, Allahabad, Madurai, Hyderabad and Varanasi.