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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

Monday Musings: Gold Medal muddle stands resolved

A student’s caste, creed and even nationality should not come in the way of recognising brilliant academic performance.

pune Updated: Nov 13, 2017 14:35 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
SPPU main building.
SPPU main building.(HT Photo)

Sound judgment has prevailed at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) where vice-chancellor (VC) Nitin Karmalkar promptly defused the ‘vegetarians and teetotallers-only’ gold medal controversy from going out of hand.

The VC acted the very next day after news about the ridiculous and discriminatory eligibility clauses for the Shelar Mama gold medal made the headlines in print and online.

On Saturday, the University’s registrar had confirmed to Hindustan Times that since 2006, the SPPU was awarding a gold medal to a top ranking post-graduate student in the science and non-science streams, with certain conditions.

It was not enough for a student to get the highest marks to qualify for the gold medal, instituted in the memory of Yog Maharishi Ramchandra Gopal Shelar, alias Shelar Mama.

In addition to getting the highest marks, the student also had to establish that he/she was a vegetarian and did not consume alcohol. That was not all. The qualifying student also had to demonstrate faith and allegiance in Indian culture and traditions, and be proficient in dance, singing, oratory and theatre.

Those who practised yoga and pranayam (the yogic breathing exercise) on a regular basis would be given a preference in the selection, the circular inviting applications for the medal stated.

Thus, as has been happening since 2006, the student with the highest marks did not automatically qualify for the medal.

Such a medal really has no worth. The trust or the persons who instituted this medal in the memory of Shelar Mama are certainly entitled to decide their criteria for the medal.

But it was wrong for the university to accept such preposterous pre-conditions for a gold medal that is essentially meant for meritorious performance. Under no circumstances can the learned people of the University justify the existence of such a blatantly discriminatory honour.

In all fairness and propriety, the University vice-chancellor has announced that either the discriminatory clauses will be dropped in consultation with those who have sponsored the medal or the medal itself shall stand withdrawn.

It is a plain common sense that university medals should strictly be meant for students with meritorious performance. A student’s caste, creed and even nationality should not come in the way of awarding a medal to the brightest products of the SPPU.

There are thousands of students from Afghanistan, West Asia, Africa and other parts of the world studying at SPPU. To disqualify them outright on the grounds of vegetarianism was callous and ridiculous.

Fortunately, this shameful matter now stands resolved.

First Published: Nov 13, 2017 14:33 IST