Should an Indian university award gold medals to meritorious students with the eligibility criteria that they must be a vegetarian and not consume alcohol?
This is precisely what has been done by the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), which has been awarding the gold medal in question since 2006.
The SPPU in an official statement to HT said: “We do not discriminate between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The university has no view in who should eat what. As far as the medal being given to vegetarians and non-alcoholics, a decision to review the criteria will be taken with the sponsors of the medal.”
The existence of such pre-conditions accompanying a gold medal became a talking point when the SPPU recently invited applications for the medal from meritorious post-graduate students from the non-science streams for the academic year 2016-17.
Instituted in the name of yoga guru, Yog Maharshi Ramchandra Gopal Shelar, alias Shelar Mama, the SPPU invited applications from affiliated colleges and departments for this medal. First issued in 2006, the circular, in its terms and conditions states that the student applying should be “vegetarian and non-alcoholic”.
Besides the vegetarian and teetotaller criterion, the circular states that the selected student should also “believe in Indian culture and tradition, and practice all these values in his daily life and should be versatile in activities like dance, singing, oratory and theatre.” Students practicing yoga, pranayam and meditation will be given preference, it adds.
As per the university tradition, the medal will be given at SPPU’s convocation ceremony, scheduled for December. The medal is awarded every year, alternately to the highest scoring post-graduate student from the science and non-science streams. This year, it will be given to a student from the non-science stream.
When contacted, Arvind Shaligram, registrar, SPPU, said the university has been awarding this gold medal since 2006. He said the terms and conditions for the medal were set by the trust which instituted the medal. “The university has nothing to do with this,” he added.
When asked whether it was appropriate for the university to institute and award medals with such conditions, he said the guidelines were framed by the academic council, which may have found them acceptable in 2006 when the original circular was issued. “If the rules and regulations have to be changed now, it has to be done by the academic council,” he noted.