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Doubts rose from Prez office

delhi Updated: Aug 25, 2010 01:22 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Hindustan Times
Doubts rose from Prez office

Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday apologised to chess champion Viswanathan Anand a day after government bickering over his citizenship denied him an honourary doctorate and embroiled the government in a controversy.

But despite the HRD ministry’s efforts to put a lid on the controversy, top government sources have revealed to HT that “vague” doubts over Anand’s citizenship first emerged from the President’s Secretariat.

“I spoke to Anand. I said sorry and I told him that he could receive the honorary doctorate at a time of his convenience, even today evening,” Sibal said on Tuesday.

Anand, who was to have received the doctorate from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) on Monday, however told the minister he would inform the government of a future date for a special convocation as he could not receive the degree today.

As reported by HT, doubts over whether Anand is an Indian or Spanish citizen triggered delays that eventually led to the government’s failure to obtain the President’s approval for the honorary doctorate in time for Monday’s scheduled convocation.

The HRD minister blamed “procedural delays.” But top government sources confirmed that the embarrassment had only exposed a series of goof-ups over citizenship of proposed awardees — including Anand — that involved the President’s Secretariat as well as the ministry and the university.

During the President’s visit to Spain last year, the official delegation was told that Anand, who has lived for several years in that country with his wife, may have obtained Spanish citizenship. These “rumours” were conveyed to the HRD ministry by the President’s Secretariat, when it was asked to approve the honorary doctorate for Anand.

The university also had to cancel a convocation scheduled earlier this year for awarding honorary doctorates to dignitaries from abroad — also after a similar goof-up. A physicist at a top American university, who happens to be an Indian citizen, did not receive his honorary doctorate because of doubts over his citizenship.