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Indian in Sunderland's honour list

Dr Ram Bannerjee has been nominated for the city's highest civic accolade, reports Nabanita sircar.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2006 19:18 IST

An Indian doctor is among the three people of Sunderland nominated for the city's highest civic accolade. Dr Ram Bannerjee OBE, along with businessman Sir Tom Cowie, agony aunt Denise Robertson are set to be granted the Honorary Freedom of the City, according to the city's council chiefs.

The three will be awarded for their "outstanding contributions to the well-being and community spirit of the city" and are the first individuals to receive the honour since Sunderland was given city status.

There has only been one Honorary Freedom awarded since 1992 - to the crew of the city's adopted warship HMS Ocean two years ago.

City council leader Bob Symonds said: "We don't give these honours out lightly because they're very special things. The three have all been tireless in their support of local schools, businesses, community projects and charities, to name but a few and are a real credit to the city and the people of Sunderland."

Dr Bannerjee, a surgeon, who was the head of Sunderland hospital's accident and emergency department, has been nominated for his outstanding contribution to medical service in the city and his service to the country. Born in India, Dr Bannerjee came to the UK in 1964 and was Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear in 1992 and has held several positions like the chair of Sunderland Volunteer Bureau and area surgeon for St John Ambulance.

The other nominee Denise said she burst into tears when she heard of her nomination "because I grew up revering Sunderland and nothing prepared me for being told about this acknowledgement." Knighted in 1992, Sir Tom's nomination is made for his contributions to economic development and education in the city.

He was born in the city and his leadership created the North East's largest motor group and Arriva is one of the UK's top 250 businesses.

Nominations have to be agreed by senior councillors on the city cabinet next week before being put to all 75 councillors for backing before a special meeting is called to confer the honours. That could be held in the next two to three months.

First Published: Jan 14, 2006 19:18 IST