The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Peon doles out PhD degrees

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: They came from far and wide to receive the biggest academic honour of their lives from the hands of the governor. But the 250-odd PhD-holders from Utkal University were in for an unpleasant surprise at the institute’s 40th convocation ceremony today.

The well-arranged event turned chaotic after the scholars — who got their certificates from a peon and not Governor Rameshwar Thakur — decided to boycott it arguing that the university authorities had “insulted” them.

Governor Thakur, the chancellor of the university, wanted to leave early so that he could see off visiting Union cabinet secretary and chief guest B.K. Chaturvedi.

“The cabinet secretary had to fly back to Delhi for a meeting. There were a large number of scholars waiting to receive the PhD certificates. So we wanted the function to end as early as possible,” explained L.N. Mishra, the vice-chancellor of Utkal University.

The scholars started arriving at the university campus from 8 am and around half-an-hour before the convocation — which was scheduled to start at 10 am — they were given files containing the certificates.

“A clerk read out the names and a peon distributed the files,” said Lopamudra Jagdeb, a researcher who came from Hyderabad to receive the degree. Peeved, the scholars objected to the procedure, describing it as a “farce”. “We have waited here for two hours, only to receive our certificates from a peon,” said Bilasini Mahakud, a history lecturer from Satya Sai College in Khurda.

Seeing that the PhD-holders had started to leave without the certificates, the authorities stepped in and assured that they would get the same from the chancellor.

Thakur distributed the certificates after the Union secretary decided to stay back till the end of the ceremony.

Mishra, who did not seem pleased with the scholars’ conduct, said “they were not supposed to behave the way they did”. The scholars also alleged that the certificates had been “carelessly” processed. Complaining that the paper was not of high quality, Manas Ranjan Pani, a researcher in geography, said his certificate did not bear a “registration number, had no seal and not even a signature of Mishra”.

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