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Students protest for non-NET fellowship despite Smriti Irani’s assurance

A protest by students in New Delhi against the UGC’s move to scrap non-NET fellowship escalated on Tuesday and led to police detaining scores of them as they refused to budge from outside the commission’s office even after the HRD Ministry’s assurance.

Police officials claimed that they resorted to mild force only when the protesters allegedly damaged around five barricades while trying to enter the premises of UGC building. In an unprovoked attack, some of the protesters allegedly manhandled police personnel, including women officials, deployed at the spot, an official said.

“We are examining the situation and legal action will follow accordingly,” said DCP (Central) Parmaditya.

The students claimed that five of them were injured during the police crackdown and had to be rushed to the hospital.

“Forty of our fellows have been detained and taken to Kamla Market police station. Five of them were severely injured in the attack and are in hospital,” said Sunny Kumar, one of the protesters.

Even after the HRD ministry’s clarification that the non-NET fellowship will not be scrapped, the students have been continuing with their agitation demanding that the amount for the grant be increased and an official notification be issued.

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.

Ending days of hostility and apprehension among students, the government had yesterday asserted that non-NET programme would continue and that a review committee has been set up to have a holistic look into the issues of NET as well as non-NET fellowships. But the students continued with their agitation.

Hundreds of students from JNU, DU, Jamia Millia, Ambedkar University and other institutions have been camping outside UGC office since last week demanding the authorities to restore the fellowships.In a similar crackdown, 100 protesters were detained last Friday and released later in the evening.

Under the scheme, financial assistance was provided to students undertaking MPhil and PhD, they were provided 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.

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