The government is planning to amend the guidelines of a scholarship scheme for tribal research students. The process is to link selections on the basis of how they score in the National Eligibility Test (NET), that aspiring college teachers and fellows need to clear.
Ministry of Tribal Affairs clarified that the guidelines regarding the age of applicants eligible for the same would be notified by the end of this month.
Currently, tribal candidates, irrespective of their age, can apply for National Fellowship for Scheduled Tribes (NFST) by mentioning their proposed research project. A panel of experts examines the proposed area of research and further selects the candidates who can be awarded the scholarship.
Some academicians pointed out that the plan to amend the guidelines hinted at a gradual reduction of welfare measures for the most deserving candidates who come from underprivileged backgrounds.
Professor G.G. Wankhede, Dean of Social Protection Office at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai expressed his fear over the gradual denial of entry to tribal students keen on research. He explained that the scholarship could be availed of by the students who want to carry on academic pursuit mostly on tribal issues which include their culture, language, society and practices. It will not be possible for the candidates to appear for the NET exam if the scholarship is linked to NET. Hence, the number of beneficiaries will go down.
One of the officials from Tribal Affairs Ministry clarified that the proposed guidelines aim at improving the quality of research and enhancing employability. He further added that if the aspiring researchers are selected through the NET exam, the intake quality will improve.
Every year, a total number of 750 students have been getting scholarships since the NFST scheme was implemented by higher education regulator UGC in the year 2007-08. The scholarship supports tribal students who wish to pursue M.Phil or Ph.D programmes.