Amit is a former JNU research scholar.
After a meeting on 23 October 2015 the Union Grants Commission (UGC), the apex decision making body on higher education in India, had decided to scrap the non-NET fellowship, which was started in 2007 by Dr. Manmohan Singh led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. In his press communiqué the chairman of UGC purportedly said that the reason for scrapping it is the students ‘misuse the fellowship money’. As this news became public the research students from various universities came out in streets to oppose this dastardly decision taken by the UGC. The most vociferous protest is going on in Delhi where research scholars from JNU, DU, Jamia Milia Islamia etc are sitting on a protest in the premise of the UGC headquarter. Instead of addressing their genuine concern the Indian state has repeatedly used its coercive instrument to unleash violence against the students expressing dissent.
On the basis of my own experience I can say that a meager amount in form of scholarship can transform someone’s life. Like many students and scholars from my batch, I availed this scholarship for five years. Without it, higher education would have been a distant nightmare for someone from a lower middle class family. After my MA from Delhi University, I briefly joined M. Phil course in the same University, but left it because of economic strains. After a gap of three years I was convinced by a friend to go for M. Phil course because my 55 plus percentage in political science (in those days only 10 to 15 out of hundred students used to score it) is going to be useless. Also, pursuing higher education from JNU was cheaper in comparison to other universities. Convinced by my friend’s logic, I applied in JNU and got into M. Phil course. At that time there was no scholarship so my father used to send me Rs 1500 every month. But after M. Phil, again, due to economic reasons, I was not in position to go for PhD which takes almost 5 years. I was not alone, there were many others who were planning to drop out, but the UGC fellowship came as a breather to all of us. It was introduced in 2007 and made us to not depend on our parent’s hard earned money. It has been proved more important for girl students, especially from non-metro cities and backward regions of India, because in patriarchal society the only duty a girl has is to get marry and procreate a male child. Any expense on their education is considered as ‘wastage’ of money.
The UGC non-NET fellowship was enough to support my PhD; I used to get Rs 3000 for two years of PhD, and after it Rs 5000 for three years. Out of it I had to pay around 1200 as mess bill, and goods for daily use, photocopies of articles, books, print out, internet connection etc made me to spend around 4000. At the end of month I was left with less than around Rs 1000 which I had to save because scholarship was not a like regular monthly salary.
So after ‘misusing’ my scholarship for five years I got a job because of my PhD, and I am paying back my scholarship money. I pay direct and indirect taxes to the Government of India through various means. Although a reluctant part of modern economy I contribute in supply-demand chain which generates money for India’s GDP. Secondly, I am also a part of human resource which all state aims at to develop so that they do not have to depend on the other countries for it. Thirdly, this is a duty of modern state to provide security to its citizens. Finally, Indian constitution directs the state engage in promotion of socio-economic justice in country. In nutshell by disbursing around Rs 100 crores for non-NET scholarship, the Indian state is not doing any favour to the students; rather it is carrying out its social, political and natural duty.
In the post-globalised sale of education, ‘consumer’ based private Universities are coming up, to teach symbiotic relationship among privatization, capitalism and nationalism. In future this will certainly create an academic apartheid in India. Earlier the well known public schools were gradually destroyed to give space to mushrooming of private schools whose only aim is to make profits. At present except one or two University and a few colleges in India, almost all have lost their quality due to government’s apathy towards higher education. Instead of focusing on improving them the UGC is engaged in creating a suitable environment in which state’s responsibility can be further rolled back from the education sector.