Following an uproar, the Savitribai Phule Pune University on Saturday junked a 10-year-old circular stipulating that a gold medalist must be "a vegetarian, free of any vices", said a top varsity official.
"We have withdrawn the 10-year-old circular after objections were raised from various quarters. Now we shall write to the Shelar family (which had endowed the two gold medals) to drop this particular stipulation," Registrar Arvind Shaligram told IANS.
He added that in case the family doesn't agree to the request, then the university would be compelled to initiate the process to cancel the two gold medals instituted out of the Shelar Family's endowment.
"We have many other gold medals that can be awarded to the students and none of them have stipulated such a condition," said Shaligram.
Intervening in the matter, Education Minister Vinod Tawde on Saturday wrote to all universities instructing that they should not bow down to any conditions/criteria which create inequalities for award of scholarships/medals sponsored by the donors.
"All universities have been directed to ensure that students should be selected on the basis of merits alone, without any discrimination or violating the fundamental rights in the Constitution," Tawde said in a statement.
The 2006 circular was issued for an endowment of Rs 120,000, received from the Shelar family for instituting two gold medals to be awarded to the varsity's two top students in the science faculty.
Among the criteria imposed were the winners must be "vegetarians, and free of any kind of vices", which recently came to the fore and was highlighted in local media and political circles.
The gold medals were: "Yoga Maharishi Rashtriya Kirtankar Ramchandra Gopal Shelar alias Shelar Mama" gold medal for excellence in Science, and another after his wife, titled, "Tyagmurti Smt.
Saraswati Ramchandra Shelar Gold Medal", again for the science faculty.
The other conditions included the winners to possess "traditional thinking, follow Indian culture in his/her daily life, should practice meditation, Yoga and Pranayanam, should have bagged maximum awards in different Indian and western sports/games".
The winners must have "excelled in singing, dancing, drama and oratory, must have participated in AIDS awareness programmes, environment protection and anti-pollution drives, donated blood, must be in the top two ranks in SSC, HSC and graduation levels", are some of the other criteria.
To a query on how the past winners were verified to be genuinely "vegetarians and free of vices", Shaligram said it may have been done through the application process and at the interview stage, but declined to comment on how authentic was the outcome.
Several local organisations, individuals and the Aam Aadmi Party had opposed the circular as being "discriminatory" and threatened to launch an agitation against the university.
Interestingly, another gold medal, "The President of India Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma Gold Medal" in Savitrai Phule Pune University's economics faculty, has stipulated only broad criteria like the marks/ranking of the student, his/her academic record and extra-curricular activities, based on a maximum of 25 points for each (criteria).
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