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Delhi’s minority fellowship recipients face uncertainty due to delayed stipend

January 24, 2024

Junaid (name changed), a PhD scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, has found himself in dire financial straits as his Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) stipend remains unpaid for over a year. This prolonged delay has forced him to sell his wife’s gold to cover his house rent, pushing him into a debt trap. Unfortunately, Junaid is not alone in facing financial challenges. Alongside 102 other scholars in Delhi, he grapples with managing monthly expenses due to the considerable delay in receiving their stipends.

Abdul Nasir, a MANF beneficiary from Delhi University, secured a legal victory in the Delhi High Court over the irregularities in the fellowship. However, he continues to battle with the delayed stipends, causing financial strain and debt. Nasir, a first-generation scholar from a farmer’s family, had to shift to a paying guest facility and send his spouse back to Bihar to reduce expenses.

The MANF, which provides financial assistance to research scholars from minority communities, was discontinued by the Centre in December 2022, citing overlap with other similar schemes. However, existing beneficiaries until February 2022 are supposed to receive the stipend amount for five years under the fellowship.

The MANF Junior Research Fellows (JRF) receive Rs 31,000 per month, and Senior Research Fellows (SRF) receive Rs 35,000 per month. Notably, these stipends were last revised in 2019. Scholars argue that the amounts should have been revised to Rs 37,000 and Rs 42,000, respectively, in line with the UGC hike implemented across other fellowships for higher education.

In response to these challenges, Lok Sabha member TN Prathapan has written to Union Minister for Minority Affairs Smriti Irani, urging her to increase the MANF fellowship and ensure timely disbursement. Scholars across 30 universities have also written to the Minority Affairs Ministry, requesting an increase in the fellowship amount and regular, timely disbursement.

The delayed stipends have created a debt trap for scholars like Junaid, Nasir, and others, who are forced to borrow money from friends to meet their daily expenses. This situation not only hampers their academic pursuits but also affects their overall well-being and motivation. The scholars are anxiously awaiting a resolution to ensure timely disbursement and a fair revision of stipend amounts to align with the rising costs of living and education.

Also read: Students protest against scrapping of Maulana Azad National Fellowship

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