Students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), that were on a strike for more than a week now have called off the protest. The institute became a protest zone of students after the announcement of unreasonable hike in hostel fees and dining along with withdrawal of fee waiver to students belonging to Scheduled Tribes (ST), Scheduled Castes (SC), and other Backward Classes (OBC).
The angst was also witnessed in other institutes of higher education across the country. Around 50-60 post graduate (PG) students from the University of Mumbai last week staged a hunger strike to express their dissatisfaction for the delay in releasing the non-national Eligibility Test (NET) fellowships, that are given to research scholars that have not cleared the NET.
Another predicament of students included hike in the registration fees for MPhil and PhD students. They told a leading media house that they haven’t received the fellowship money since October, as UGC has not released the funds yet.
Events from the Past
The Central Government had in 2016 brought back the fellowships after it saw huge resistance while it cancelled the non-NET fellowships. Researches too across various universities have complained about the lackluster attitude of UGC in releasing the funds meant for them. PG students of government run medical colleges in Mumbai along with the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), a state-funded university are also facing paucity of funds. The government of Maharashtra had stopped their scholarships and fellowships earlier in 2012.
“The state stopped the assistance contending that students receive fellowships from the central government. However, those who don’t get fellowships also lost on the scholarships. We made several representations to the state government to restore the aid for these students, but got no reply,” a top official from the institute said.
Students from institutes outside Mumbai have also been affected. Sarjerao Doltade, the general secretary of students’ council at ICT told to a media house that it was going to be difficult this way for the parents of students like him, who hailed from rural areas.
Why TISS students were on strike?
The TISS administration has issued a circular at the beginning of academic year 2016-17 to withdraw the financial aid to SC and ST students which came under Government of India Post-Matric Scholarship (GoI-PMS) scheme. As a consequence, the hostel and dining charges were applicable on these students.
Now, the SC and ST students belonging to the academic session 2016-18 have been kept away from paying the hostel fee but a dining hall fee of Rs.62, 000 per annum is applicable on them. The fees can be paid after the completion of respective courses by students, but the original degrees will be issued only when the payment is made.
While the students of academic year 2017-19 are demanding a similar exemption, the authorities have not acceded to it. The management instead has said that funds for the students those who cannot afford the dining fee should be raised.
The exemption of fees for OBC students came into existence in 2015 and has been in place since then. The institute has also stopped providing non-NET fellowships to researchers as the central government has stopped the funding. The institute has been paying around Rs 3, 000 per month to both MPhil and PhD students in the absence of UGC funds.