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INSPIRE, Government's Pet Project to Provide Faculty Jobs, Leaves Scientists Jobless

As per INSPIRE Faculty, the program has not been able to achieve what it set out to in the beginning. Now, the DST is exploring other options to create alternate avenues to continue research activities and avoid loss of talent in research and development.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:April 26, 2018, 12:23 PM IST
INSPIRE, Government's Pet Project to Provide Faculty Jobs, Leaves Scientists Jobless
Image for representation.
New Delhi: The Department of Science and Technology (DST) had ambitiously implemented the INSPIRE Faculty (IF) program in 2011 to stop the ‘brain drain’ trend from India. Seven years later, the reality seems to be the rank opposite.

INSPIRE Faculty of DST intended to have awardees of the program recruited to host institutions, where the department’s programs are being implemented. But as the first batch that was enrolled in 2011 entered the sixth year, DST observed that there was uncertainty lying ahead for its fellows. The department then wrote to host institutes — NITs, IITs, IISERs, NISER — to absorb the INSPIRE Faculty in case of vacancies.

As per IF, the program has not been able to achieve what it set out to in the beginning. Now, the DST is exploring other options to create alternate avenues to continue research activities and avoid loss of talent in research and development.

Dr A Mukhopadhyay, Head of INSPIRE Section DST, last year wrote to the host institutions saying that, so far, around 1100 INSPIRE faculty fellows selected through national competitive processes have been hosted at various universities – State, Central and national research Laboratories/ centrally funded institutes like IITs, NITs, IISERs, NISER.

“The success rate of selection process is only about 10-12% out of which nearly 30% candidates are from overseas, who have either completed their PhD or postdoctoral research abroad before taking up the INSPIRE faculty offered in India within 32 years of age,” wrote Mukhopadhyay.

This selection process is carried out by the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology. DST provides this offer for five years from the date of joining purely on contractual basis towards supporting the fellowship and research grant for this period.

A RTI filed in November 2017 revealed, “currently, 65% IFs are unemployed permanently and suffering for their duly dignified career”. Rest 35%, who are employed, are at other than host institutions or were already permanent faculty when they applied for IF position (the scheme is open to permanent faculty as well).

Mukhopadhyay wrote to the host institutes that "they have serious concerns regarding the remaining INSPIRE faculty as they are yet to secure regular positions for continuation of their research activities”.

INSPIRE Faculty Seeks PM Appointment

Troubled at the numbers and selection rate, the fellows approached DST secretary Ashutosh Sharma several times in past one month. The affected fellows have sent letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister of Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan and Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar complaining that “DST and host institutions both irresponsibly disavowed from their commitment of assured opportunity in research careers and left us on road”.

According to the Undertaking/Guideline for INSPIRE Faculty, “IFs are potential assets for Faculty development in host institutions and hosts will absorb IFs in due course. Host Institutions are expected to consider INSPIRE Faculty for permanent positions.” But, it has been observed that “neither hosts treated IFs like Faculty nor did they absorb most of the IFs,” said the complaint.

“Host institutes treat an INSPIRE faculty as a complementary highly paid postdoc instead of potential faculty candidate to the institute.”

DST declared IFs as potential assets for research and teaching and spent nearly Rs 90 lakh on each faculty during 5 years. In absence of clear regulation/guidelines given by DST to host institution to ensure recruitment of INSPIRE Faculty as a regular faculty, the department has INSPIRE Faculty on mercy of host institution.

Plea To HRD

DST has conveyed to the INSPIRE Faculty, “We have no control over the host institutes.”

In this scenario, the intervention of Ministry of Human Resource Development in Department of Science and Technology is important. The Ministry has been dealing with the problem of faculty crunch and has taken steps to start programs that can fill the gap in faculty strength.

“Due to high faculty crunch in higher education, MHRD can direct the host institutions and DST to recruit IFs, who have already proved their suitability working for 5 years in the same institute. Also, we have been recruited through proper 3-tier selection process by eminent apex level selection committee of Indian National Sciences Academy,” the fellows said to the concerned parties in the complaint.

“MHRD can direct to DST (if required, provide funds to DST) to extend our tenure following the pattern of UGC Faculty Recharge Program up to 65 years,” the fellows said.

“We, the pool of trained young scientists are forced to be jobless, at the same time the Government proclaims to bring back the retired teachers to fill a large number of vacancies in centrally-funded institutions and universities,” wrote the complainants.

News18 was told by the source in HRD ministry that “HRD will act on the complaint and take it up with IIT/NIT Councils on absorption of INSPIRE Faculty recruitment in host institutes.”
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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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