Prefix-fixated: Call us doctors, say plant scientists, minister says no

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 21, 2016 11:31 IST

William Shakespeare’s “What’s in a name?” may be acceptable to these Punjab agriculture department officers but, if someone asks them what’s in a prefix, they are offended.

It means “a lot to them” to be addressed as “Doctor Saab”, which they call each other in normal practice. These 500-odd B.Sc (agricultural studies) graduates claim to be “plant doctors” and demand prefix “Dr” before their names in official files and orders, and on incumbency boards hung on office walls.

These agriculture development officers, additional, joint and deputy directors, and a director-rank officer had their “right snatched” last November, when a communication from the additional chief secretary in charge of the agriculture department barred them from using the prefix. The officers say their “dignity has been lowered”.

On March 31, then agriculture director Gurdial Singh wrote back to the department head before approaching agriculture minister jathedar Tota Singh and others in the government.

“How can they write ‘Dr’ before their names, there’s no logic,” said the minister. “They are lowering the dignity of doctors”. A top officer of the department also suggested his scientists to follow the University Grants Commission guidelines on who can use the prefix. “Why can’t we, when veterinarians of the same qualification can? We are rather better qualified,” said agriculture director Jasbir Singh Bains.


The March 31 letter said Khem Singh Gill, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) vice-chancellor from 1990 to 1993, had started the prefix practice after writing to the government for permission. “But there was no government notification,” said a top officer of the department.

“The responsibilities of research and extension specialists have increased... for at least to maintain their social status, allow them to use ‘doctor’ prefix,” then agriculture director Gurdial Singh wrote to the department head in March. “We are hoping against hope to get the status restored,” said current director Bains.

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