Occupy UGC: Letter to the Prime Minister of India | Mujahid Mughal

Dear Prime Minister,

I am a Ph.D student from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. Although I have qualified UGC-NET, SET and BSR but due to loopholes in our education system, I have been receiving only the non-NET fellowship (like many others) so far i.e. Rs.8000 per month. An amount which is far less than the amount a daily wager or labourer earns in India.

Sir, it is only the educational development which can put India on the path of progress and affluence. Education is the key to solve all the problems India is going through. Education is the summon bonum of all our progress. Education is both the means and the end of our existence. If we go by the census definition of education, we come to know that around 75% of India is educated. But that is not true. The definition of census about literacy is as misleading as the official definition of poverty in India. Keeping in mind the flaws in these definitions we come to know that India still has one of the largest groups of hungry and illiterate people on earth.

There is no doubt that the modern scientific education and research will greatly accelerate the rate of growth and development in the country. In current times, no country can develop in the true sense of the term if education and research is being put on the back seat. However, it is very disappointing that since BJP has come to power, it seems that development in the education sector is getting far less priority than it needs.

The first set back was the cuts in education sector in the annual budget of India. India is already a military might and a nuclear power now. Thus it is the time to focus more and more on becoming a food-power, a health-power and an education-cum-research power. Illiteracy, hunger and disease are far more dangerous enemies of India than any other perceived threat.

Sir, the recent decision of University Grants Commission (UGC) to discontinue non-NET fellowships was another set back to the higher education in India. This undoubtedly will discourage many potential bright research aspirants to pursue research in different fields which will indeed be very dangerous for the whole system of higher education in India.

Having said that, I must now, apprise you with another fact that qualifying NET or SET (as it is pretended by UGC) is not enough good a criteria for quality research. Although I can quote you tens of examples to prove my point, but I am sure that you will understand it by just one.

The mathematics department of Aligarh Muslim University is among top 70 departments (of mathematics) in the world. And that has been made possible due to the quality research carried out here since decades. You will be amazed (happily) to know that among these finest researchers of Aligarh Muslim University, there is a conspicuous absence of NET/JRF qualified researchers. The decision to discontinue the non-NET fellowship definitely will discourage many such researchers to go for Ph.D. Personally speaking, although I have qualified UGC-NET thrice apart from SET and BSR tests conducted by UGC, but the fact is that there are so many people in my field whom I take advice from and who haven’t qualified NET.

It is now quite clear that qualifying NET has nothing to do with the quality research. Quality research needs proper environment which includes proper guidance, proper training, laboratories, instruments and working space. And the pre-requisite for all this is “funding”. Funding in research is directly proportional to the quality in research. But on the contrary, the highest educational body (governing) of India, ignoring all these facts is putting education (particularly higher education) on the back seat in the name of quality education.

It is an undeniable fact that whatever progress India has made today is only because of the research in different fields. Also, whatever India could not become, is due the lack of focus on improving education and research in those fields. Research alone has made India a growing economy and a military giant.

We also know that there are huge inter-personal, inter-regional, inter-caste and inter-religious economic inequalities existing in India in terms of education (apart from economy). Around 80% of India’s wealth is in the hands of around 20% people. The rich therefore will have no problem in receiving education at all. It won’t affect them even if education is made a hundred times costlier. Cuts in fellowships and discontinuing them will therefore affect only Dalits, members of OBCs, Muslims and other weaker sections of India.

Ignoring this fact, however UGC has also reduced the scope of Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) a scholarship for meritorious scholars from minority communities. Taking into consideration the reports of Sachar committee or even census of India or any reliable data on education, it is quite clear that all this is going to hit minorities very hard.

I must also apprise you with another fact that, the non-NET fellowship is given only to the researchers in the central universities and the researchers in the state universities don’t receive any such fellowship. This indeed is one important factor that hinders the quality research at state universities. Thus the scholarships are required to be extended to the other public institutions as well.

The tweet of Ms. Smriti Irani (MHRD) for not discontinuing non-NET fellowship on 25th of October was indeed a diversion from the real issue, i.e. “hike in fellowships”. It sounded like jeering at the future of India (Students/Scholars) who is on the road from more than three weeks.

Sir, on behalf of the whole student community of India, I request you to look into the matter and solve the crisis. Researchers are meant for the fields, laboratories and libraries and not for the roads.

Sincerely Yours

Mujahid Mughal (Ph.D. Student)

Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

Mujahid Mughal

Mujahid Mughal

Mujahid Mughal is BSR Fellow at Department of Geography, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh