Srinagar: Researchers at Kashmir University (KU) are leaving projects midway due to meagre salary or not getting the salary that is their due. The university has now asked the funding agencies, which include the University Grants Commission (UGC), to hike the salary component at par with what is due to NET-qualified researchers and to keep the salary component constant for all research projects.
While Rs 25,000 and Rs 16,000 along with HRA were usually paid as remuneration, respectively, to researchers who had qualified the National Eligibility Test (NET) and to those who had not, Dean of Research at KU, Prof Zafar A Reshi, told Kashmir Reader that certain agencies including the National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS) and the UGC were paying less than this amount to researchers at KU.
The agencies, Prof Reshi said, “do not pay as per the routine guidelines even if you have qualified NET.”
One of the projects for which NET qualified researchers are being paid Rs 16,000 instead of the due Rs 25,000, is the Rs 5-crore project ‘Kashmir Himalayan Biodiversity – Documentation, Bio-prospection and Conservation’, approved by the UGC under the scheme ‘Centre with Potential for Excellence in Particular Areas’ (CPEPA) of which the Dean of Research KU is the Chief Coordinator.
A senior professor who is part of this project told Kashmir Reader that three researchers who were working under him left the project midway after two of them were hired as contractual lecturers by the Higher Education Department this year, while the third researcher “did not want to continue.”
“They preferred the (contractual lecturer) posts as they are paid more there,” the professor said.
The Higher Education Department hiked remuneration of NET-qualified teachers to Rs 28,000 this year from Rs 18,000 last year.
“Many researchers who were working on another NMHS-funded project shifted here and there,” the professor said.
“We have to notify the posts again and again, which consumes time,” he added.
Besides the UGC-funded project, Prof Reshi said that another project funded by NMHS has been allocated lesser amount for researchers’ remuneration.
“As a person who is part of projects funded by these agencies, I have written to them (funding agencies). We are asking them for the funds so that we can meet the expenditures. When they pay us the salary component at Rs 16,000 per researcher, how can we pay them Rs 25,000?” he said.
“There should be uniform salary for uniform qualification,” Prof Reshi said. “Obviously, it interferes with the choices of the researchers, some of whom do not stay. It creates its own problems.”
He said that KU has asked the funding agencies “to keep the salary component constant for all projects.”
“A student is interested in a particular project, but gets meagre salary. What will he do?” he asked.
Without disclosing the actual number of researchers who had quit research work midway, Prof Reshi said, “It is simple as that: If you get a job, you will opt for it.”
“There are prospects for contractual lecturers of getting a job tomorrow on the basis of experience. The call has to be taken by the funding agency. They shall have to increase the budget allocation,” he said.