The Defence Institute of Advanced Technology’s (DIAT) sudden move to suspend monthly scholarships for the last two months has left 70 civilian students, who are pursuing their PhDs in engineering and applied sciences, agitated.
The institute is a deemed university governed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and HRD ministry norms and is funded by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The students have complained that the institute has gone back on a written commitment of following the UGC/MHRD norms and giving them enhanced scholarships as was done recently for the other central institutes by the government. Leave aside the enhanced scholarship, even the previous scholarship grant has been suspended causing needless hardship, they said.
In an emailed response to TOI’s query, DIAT’s deputy registrar (administration) T V Ananthasubramanian said, “We are in discussion with the HRD ministry, through the DRDO headquarters, on the issue and we would be in a position to say anything after September 11.” The institute’s board of management, headed by its vice-chancellor and eminent space communication technologist Surendra Pal, is expected to meet on September 11 and the scholarships are one of the issues on the agenda.
The students have, meanwhile, sent letters to the Prime Minister, the defence minister, who is the chancellor of the university, DRDO director general and the HRD minister, among others, seeking apt redressal of their grievance. All the affected students are full-time non-sponsored PhD scholars who were enrolled by DIAT after 2009 and have cleared their Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) or National or State Eligibility Tests (NET/SET) as per the HRD ministry norms.
“In the admission offer issued by the institute at the time of enrolment, it is clearly mentioned that our PhD studies will be governed by the UGC regulations,” a section of the affected students, who met this reporter, said. “Even the financial aid and scholarships webpage on the DIAT website mentions that all students admitted to PhD programme as full-time students will be eligible for scholarship as per HRD ministry norms in force,” they added.
As part of the PhD study scheme, these students were getting monthly scholarships of Rs 16,000 and Rs 18,000 for applied sciences and engineering research, respectively, for the first two years of the programme. Those who successfully completed the first two years were getting Rs 18,000 and Rs 20,000 for the next two years. There is no provision for scholarship after four years.
These emoluments were in tune with a DRDO communication to the DIAT on September 7, 2011 that listed out the scholarship awards for PhD students, junior and senior research fellows (JRF/SRF). “We were getting our monthly scholarship without any hitch till June but, the institute did not give us the contingency funds,” the students said.
On March 2, 2015, the HRD ministry announced a revision in the rates of PhD scholarships, enhancing the same to Rs 25,000 for JRF and Rs 28,000 for SRF. “The institute even issued an office memorandum on May 2, 2015 relating to revision of scholarships and fellowships on the lines of the ministry’s revised rates and this was done after the DIAT board of management approved the revision at a meeting held before May 2, 2015,” the students said.
They said, “We even received the scholarship as per the revised rate for the month of June although, the same was Rs 25,000 for JRF as well as SRF instead of Rs 28,000 provided for SRF. However, the scholarships were all of a sudden suspended thereafter and we are not getting any satisfactory answers from the institute authorities.”
The students are paying fees at Rs 25,000 per semester (six months) apart from hostel and canteen charges.