| President Pranab Mukherjee presents the honorary degree to Rishang Keishing during the 14th convocation of Manipur University in Imphal on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Imphal, April 29: President Pranab Mukherjee today presented an honorary degree to Rishang Keishing, the oldest parliamentarian in the nation, for his more-than-half-a-century-long public service.
The President conferred Keishing, 94, with the degree of doctor of law (honoris causa) during the 14th convocation of Manipur University here.
Mukherjee also presented the degree of doctor of literature (honoris causa) to well known musicologist Laishram Birendrakumar Singh, 94.
The citation described Keishing as a social worker and the senior most parliamentarian with a unique distinction.
Birendrakumar Singh was described as a singer, researcher, critique and writer.
Keishing, who retired recently as a member of Rajya Sabha, began his political career when he was elected to the first Lok Sabha in 1952.
He represented Phungyar Assembly constituency in Ukhrul seven times and was chief minister four times and ruled the state for 12 years.
Congratulating Keishing, Mukherjee described him as a “distinguished leader” of the country.
“I am honoured and privileged to serve the people of Manipur and India. I firmly believe service to mankind is service to God. I dedicate the honorary degree to the people of Manipur,” Keishing said, accepting the degree.
The President’s daylong visit was greeted with deserted streets in the state capital because of general strikes separately called by the coordination committee of six militant groups and the Maoist Communist Party, Manipur to boycott the visit.
The President’s cavalcade travelled from Imphal airport to the centenary hall of Manipur University, about 15km from the airport, through the deserted city roads. All shops in the state capital remained closed.
Tight security measures were taken and armed police personnel lined the President’s route from the airport to the university.
In his speech, Mukherjee called upon the youths of Manipur to join hands with the rest of the country in forging the future of the nation.
“Let the dark days of violence and conflict be left behind. Let a new dawn emerge. Let me assure you that the government of India and the state government of Manipur are determined and duty bound to ensure that every Manipuri lives with dignity and has equal rights and opportunities,” he said.
Mukherjee termed the recent attacks on people from the Northeast as unfortunate and said “we must ensure that the pluralistic character of our nation and the thread of India’s unity is maintained”.
The President also expressed concern over the poor performance by universities in the country. “Not a single Indian university figures in the list of top 200 universities in the world,” he said.
The President assured the students of Manipur University that the Manipur University Students Union, which was dissolved after the Centre took over the university in 2005, would be revived.
Conservation of Paddy Land and Natural Resources Protection Committee, Manipur, an NGO, urged the President in a memorandum to formulate a land use policy and urge the Manipur government to regularise government projects and private constructions on agricultural lands.
Vision Foundation Manipur also urged the President in a memorandum to improve the power situation in Manipur.