A long-standing demand of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) has finally been addressed.
The Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship, which had till now covered only students from the SC and ST sections, have now been extended to students with disabilities who are pursuing MPhil and PhD degrees. This will come into retrospective effect from April 1, 2012.
Many students organisations had been demanding that physically challenged students be included under the ambit of the scholarship.
The scheme will award 200 Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) per year to students with disabilities. The scheme covers all universities/institutions recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC). It will be implemented by the UGC on the pattern of the scheme of UGC Fellowship being awarded to research students pursuing MPhil and PhD.
The scholarship amount will be between Rs 16,000 (JRF) to Rs 18,000 (SRF).
These fellowships will be available to students who are covered under the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
JNUSU president V Lenin Kumar said, "We appreciate the move on the part of the government but 200 fellowships for students across the country is not enough. Ideally, every physically handicapped student who applies for the scholarship should receive it."
The Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS) has also applauded the move.
According to university officials, the move was part of the major recommendations of the working group on Empowering the Persons with Disabilities for the 11th Five Year Plan, 2007-2012, constituted by Planning Commission. The committee, chaired by Dr G N Karna from JNU, suggested that the ambit of Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship be extended so as to cover the students with disabilities on a par with students from SC and ST sections.
Karna said, "The official announcement regarding extending the Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship to students with disabilities has come at an opportune time. A number of steps are being taken to help persons with disabilities. The Central government is trying to harmonise all legislative and policy provisions in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."
Another demand of the JNUSU is that "Since a PhD at any institute takes about seven years, the fellowship period should also be increased from the current five years to seven years."