The 10-year-old rule for gold medal returned to fame and it might just reflect the reality of our society
On October 31, 2017, Savitribai Phule Pune University announced the criteria for students to be eligible for Shelar Mama gold medal. Among all, the one rule that was the point of protest among students was, a candidate must be vegetarian and free of vices. The notice came into limelight when student political organisations observed the criteria and demanded the University to scrap such rules.
On November 10, 2017, the student’s political organisations raised the issue and their objections to the rules. AICC Joint Secretary & National in-charge, National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), Ruchi Gupta, took the issue to social media and also submitted a plea to the Supreme Court demanding to withdraw such discriminatory rules.
This is ridiculous. Pune University has mandated that only vegetarian and non alcohol-imbibing students will be eligible for one award. The @nsui will protest & also fight legally pic.twitter.com/bIwQFMPfjV
— Ruchi Gupta (@guptar) November 10, 2017
According to the circular posted above, the varsity cited a list of requirements to become an eligible candidate for the gold medal. Apart from being a vegetarian and teetotaller, the chosen gold medallist should also believe in Indian culture, tradition and practice all these values in his/ her daily life and should be versatile in activities like dance, singing, eloquence and theatre.
The circular went viral and received a lot of criticism on different social media platforms. Supriya Sule, National Congress Party leader, tweeted, “Shocking disappointing decision by Pune University – so proud of education in our state, what has happened to our universities. Please focus on Education not food.”
Aditya Thackrey, Yuva Sena leader, went on saying, “I agree that the criterion should specify that a student should not have any vices. But ‘only vegetarian’ criterion is incomprehensible. Are you running a university or have you opened a restaurant? Give a gold medal to those who issued this diktat and dismiss them”
Mahalakshmi DM, an alumna of Pune University and currently a Director at Professionele Consultants India Pvt.Ltd. addressing the issue said, “People are circulating university circular that restricts gold medals for vegetarians and students with no vices, but they must understand three things; first, this was a private award sponsored by Shelar family to students of Pune University, second, the award was introduced to 10 years back and lastly, this award was not a state government award nor directive.”
After much protests and debates, on November 11, Pune University came up with a clarification. In a statement, it announced, “The University does not distinguish between people by the food they consume.” The notice further explained that the award is being given since 2006. The receiver is judged on his/ her behaviour, participation in yoga and sports. It also said that the candidates who are vegetarian are given preference, but it’s not compulsory that the winner has to be a vegetarian.
Arvind Saligram, the registrar of the SPPU, went on the record, accepting that the circular was old as the gold medal was constituted in the name of Shelar Mama in 2006 and that the same circular has been reissued every year with the same content.