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International Scholars And Organisations Unhappy With The Changes To The National Overseas Scholarships

In an open letter addressed to the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, 350 international scholars and 20 organisations have come down heavily on the removal of Humanities from the National Overseas Scholarships (NOS).

The amendments to the guidelines for the National Overseas Scholarship has drawn flak from Indian scholars from around the world and from academic and research centres, who have now addressed an open letter to the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Virendra Kumar. 

In February, the Ministry had issued a notification prohibiting Indian students from pursuing subjects such as Indian History, Culture and Social Studies under the National Overseas Scholarship. This means that students willing to pursue certain Humanities subjects in institutions abroad will not be covered under the National Overseas Scholarship offered by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, India.

In the letter addressed to the Union Minister, the signatories have called the move an “unwarranted and unacceptable restriction” of the scholars’ rights to study subjects related to India abroad. Making a case for why it is crucial for the amendment to be done away with, the letter says, “It is crucial that scholarship on India retains an international character, not least because Indian migrants have travelled across and settled in all the continents. The study of Indian languages, cultures, histories, art forms, societal and political developments can never be territorially cut off from India’s interactions with other parts of the world.”

The National Overseas Scholarship was initiated in the year 1954 to provide financial assistance to 100 Indian scholars looking to pursue science, technology and engineering. The provision for Humanities subjects was made only in 2012. The circular that now removes these subjects from the scholarships comes two months before applications close for this year.

In introducing the subjects in 2012, the ministry had shown some resistance to the claim that there are adequate resources here in India to study these subjects. The letter refutes this claim, saying, “Universities around the world have thriving departments and research centres on South Asia and it is vital that scholars and researchers from marginalised backgrounds in India contribute to and participate in these international networks and research centres. In fact, all knowledge of India’s cultures and traditions is inextricably indebted to the perspectives of those who belong to India’s historically oppressed communities.”

The letter has also minced no words in calling the decision “unilateral and unjustified”. It also mentions the fact that at a time when a large number of Indian universities have reserved posts for lecturers from the SC/ST/BC/OBC categories vacant due to an alleged want of qualified individuals, the stopping of this scholarship robs aspirants from these communities an opportunity to qualify for these posts. A call for the immediate withdrawal of the policy has been issued via the letter, which was signed by over 350 scholars and 20 organisations from around the world.

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