Small price for big prize

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  • Published 16.07.12

New Delhi, July 15: Becoming presidential candidate can have its price. For Pranab Mukherjee, it comes in the shape of an honorary doctorate from India’s first IIT.

The government has dropped Mukherjee’s name from a list of five candidates, forwarded by IIT Kharagpur for honorary Doctorate of Science (DSc) degrees, on the ground that conferring a central institute’s award on the ruling alliance’s presidential candidate may not be proper.

Besides, the degrees are to be awarded on August 25, by when the next President — in all likelihood Mukherjee —will have assumed office.

It’s the President who approves all honorary doctorates from central educational institutions, a government source said. “So how would it look if the President himself steps up to receive one, even though a predecessor may have approved his name?”

Mukherjee may not rue his loss too much — he already has one honorary doctorate, a DLitt awarded by Assam University, Silchar, in March.

An IIT Kharagpur source said the honorary DSc would have been recognition for Mukherjee’s “generosity” towards the institute during his stint as Union finance minister.

The institute was allocated Rs 200 crore in last year’s budget for development projects. Besides, before leaving the ministry, Mukherjee gave “positive indications” about the tech school’s demand for Rs 150 crore to set up a 400-bed hospital so that it can start a course in medicine.

IIT Kharagpur’s senate, which chooses the recipients of honorary degrees, had proposed the five names on May 30. By the time its board of governors ratified it on June 18, however, Mukherjee had been nominated for President.

On June 19, IIT Kharagpur director Damodar Acharya sent the names to the Union human resource development ministry to get them approved by the President, who is the institute’s Visitor.

“The ministry felt it would not be appropriate to send up Mukherjee’s name for approval. The other names have been forwarded,” a ministry official told The Telegraph.

The others on the list include industrialist Baba Kalyani, former IIT Kharagpur chairman B. Muthuraman, and IIT Madras chairman M.M. Sharma.

Some IIT Kharagpur teachers are unhappy that the names were passed at the senate without discussion although they had no objection to the choice of Mukherjee. A faculty member said the institute director had not placed the matter on the May 30 meeting’s agenda and simply announced the names at the end.