In a major setback to PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and MPhil (Master of Philosophy) students belonging to minority communities in Karnataka, the state government has reduced their fellowship amount to Rs 8,333 from Rs 25,000 per month, that is, by 66%. This curtailment of the fellowship amount has been made in view of the depleting revenues of the state government due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Directorate of Minorities (DoM). This decision will affect around 250 students who are beneficiaries of the fellowship programme under the Directorate of Minorities of the Karnataka government.
The students who are affected by the decision had sought a meeting with Minister for Minority Welfare Shrimant Patil and other related leaders but in vain. In a related decision in wake of the pandemic, the DoM has passed an order in which students will be asked to pay back their fellowship amount with a 12% interest if they fail to finish their PhD within three years.
Reacting to the development, a collective of research scholars has written to various leaders of the state to reverse this decision. In one of the letters addressed to UT Khader, former minister and opposition MLA from Mangaluru, the students said, “We understand the problem with the disbursement of funds caused by COVID-19 pandemic, but at the same time, we are helpless, as it is difficult to meet the expenses of universities’ annual course fee, accommodation fee along with other expenses related to research. According to the DoM fellowship rules, we have been enrolled under a full-time PhD, and we cannot take up any full-time job during this tenure.”
The letter added, “The completion of a PhD degree irrespective of Basic Science, Engineering, Arts and Humanities, will take a minimum of four to five years, and due to the present pandemic situation, it has become all the more difficult to finish within the stipulated time. Moreover, no university will give PhD degree certificate within three years. In fact, universities will not allow the student to submit a PhD thesis before three years. Once the thesis submission is done after three years, it must be evaluated by national and international experts, and then comes the final presentation after the completion of all steps which takes a minimum six to 10 months.”