The government has appointed a five-member panel to review the situation. After the decision of University Grants Commission to scrap non-NET fellowship sparked controversy and protest, the government reiterated that it has directed the UGC not to implement the decision to discontinue the non-NET fellowships.
The students, who have been protesting since last eight days, termed the government's notification an "eyewash" and said they will continue their agitation till the "review" is done.
According to a report by Press Trust of India,"In order to encourage and expand quality research in diverse fields, the Central Government has constituted a five-member review committee to go into the issues related to the research fellowships provided by UGC. The panel will submit its report to the HRD Ministry by December 2015," an official notification said.
"The Central Government has directed the UGC not to implement the Commission's decision to discontinue the non-NET fellowships and continue all existing fellowships," it added.
The committee has been asked to: determine the feasibility of enhancing the coverage of NET fellowships which are merit based, establish a transparent system of transfer of fellowship amounts every month to non-NET fellows, considering economic and non-economic criteria for eligibility for the fellowship, among others.
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 the inability to provide fellowships, triggering protests last week by the students from universities across Delhi demanding that the decision should 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. Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani had on Sunday assured that the fellowships will not be discontinued after she met a student delegation.
"We demand that the committee must be an enhancement panel and not a review panel. Also, it should not restrict fellowships by merit or income criteria for the fellowship.
The notification does not say anything about scholars who are going to enroll in the next academic session," said Shehla Rashid, Vice President, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Hundreds of students from JNU, DU, Jamia Millia, Ambedkar University and other institutions have been camping outside UGC office since last week demanding that the authorities restore the fellowships.