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#ReleaseUGCJRF: “We Are More Worried About Our Stomach And Family Than Our Research Now”

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#ReleaseUGCJRF is a campaign ignited after the delay in UGC Fellowships, as researchers find it hard to make ends meet amidst a pandemic.

In the middle of COVID-19 concern, research scholars in India are left in a disappointing situation due to the delay in disbursement of centrally affiliated fellowships. Junior Research Fellows said that “Despite thousands of letters and emails to the concerned authority, not a single positive response has been received so far”.

Researchers have come forward with attention-grabbing measures to let UGC know of their long months of financial instability. Scholars have taken initiatives for signing group petitions, mailing in groups, and digital protests.

The Indian Research scholars have an official closed Facebook group named ‘UGC Fellowships Forum’ consisting of around 52000 members. Research work needs proper financial consistency. After the experiences heard from research scholars from various universities, we can say, research and livelihoods are at a stake!

Currently, they use the platform to discuss and share research-related, as well as their financial concerns. Researchers said that they are in depression as they are unable to meet necessary expenditure such as expenses, rent, medical, and expenses on research and education.

In an official statement, scholars cleared that thousands of researchers have qualified National Eligibility Test and Junior Research Fellowship but not yet received a single rupee from fellowships. Lakhs of research scholars have not received fellowship amount since 6 to 12 months due to irregularities in disbursements.

The delay of fellowship is gross negligence and injustice on part of UGC and government. Most socio-economically backward scholars like me choose research as a career choice and are able to pursue it only because of scholarships. We take JRF scholarship as an assurance by UGC so that we can concentrate on research and contribute to the nation.

The cruel part is, majority of scholars are in the middle of the PhD and we can’t quit and look for a job. We have invested our life and soul into our research. UGC should rightfully give what’s our right. Don’t make us fight for it. If there is no response or delayed further, we will do that too.

Praveen Kumar, Research Scholar from University of Madras told his concerns.

As of now, immediate clearance of all the pending fellowships of scholars, timely disbursement of fellowships, specify exact date for monthly disbursement of fellowship amount, and grievances or redressal mechanism for immediate action on issues related to fellowships are some of the demands put forward by Indian researchers. Scholars said that there has been no clear-cut communication from the UGC officials and Education ministry regarding the disbursement process.

“We are more worried about our stomach and family than our research now”

UGC has not disbursed funds. Some people have not received funds for months altogether. It has made our life hell.  We wrote to the Education minister, UGC and Finance ministry, yet we have not received our fellowship. And what is more important is that the PFMS got updated with nearly 34 crores on 1 October 2020 and the money is not being disbursed. And UGC is telling it has no funds. So, we are wondering where did the money go?

The delay has seriously impeded our research and we have to struggle for survival. Whenever we try to talk to UGC, they say the amount will be credited “shortly” and or paid in “next payment cycle” but we are never given a concrete answer. Few scholars have been receiving the same reply since month.

Snigdha Konar, a PhD scholar from JNU shared her experience.

On the other hand, researchers also raised serious concern about the fellowships that are being denied as per the recent UGC guidelines which require a Senior Research Fellowship conversion meeting, if they have to receive fellowships on completion of three years of the research period.

During these trying times, the withholding of fellowships has considerably affected our sustenance as many of us have families to support.

A researcher says.

It has been 10 months since I qualified UGC NET-JRF examination, yet, have not received a single rupee from UGC. It has become impossible to carry on with research. Since UGC needs contingency bills trimonthly, I had to borrow money for that purpose.

Research has consumed my every rupee and now I have nothing to carry on my research. How can I pay house rent and stationary bills, when I have not received any money?”

Abhay Pandey, University of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh says.

Scholars whose SRF meeting were scheduled but postponed due to lockdown, scholars whose SRF documents haven’t been uploaded by the university as they were still being processed by the university, scholars whose SRF documents were uploaded by the university but not yet approved by UGC have asked to be withheld.

I left a good job for PhD and now government is forcing us to quit PhD. This is not just my case thousands of research scholars are suffering because of non-payment of fellowships. We are more worried about our stomach and family than our research now.

Naafih, a PhD scholar from Pondicherry University.

Pandemic has been really hard on me, I have to pay the mortgage of my home, pay medical bills, and grocery. The uncertainty had brought huge economical and mental crisis. It’s been four months since I’ve received my fellowship. This is after qualifying CSIR UGC NET with All India Rank 74.

Jiten Sharma, PhD research scholar, Central University of Gujarat shared his emotions.

“There are scholars whose fellowships have been withheld since September 2019. Since the change in regulation was made last year, there are many scholars who are in the fourth or fifth year of their research work. It would come as a great relief if the new regulation could be temporarily withdrawn during the lockdown period and the scholarships be released, as per the old norms and if this isn’t possible, to please release the pending JRF amount and postpone the upgradation to SRF till the withdrawal of the lockdown. There are instances where supervisors or HODs torture scholars by not conducting SRF meetings due to department politics also. In dire circumstances, the world as a whole is facing and to provide us with some relief in this matter as many of us are struggling to make ends meet”. Researchers collectively said in an official statement.

You must be to comment.
  1. Asikul Islam

    well articulated

    1. Sofia Babu

      Thank you.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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