Saturday, March 19, 2005

Abdullah orations and research awards defunct at Jaipur's premier medical college

The SMS Medical College could not have extended a more shoddy welcome to Rajya Sabha MP Farooq Abdullah, one of its most prominent students, to a college reunion that takes place on March 27. A series of annual orations, research awards and medals for academic excellence that were initiated by him, when he was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, have been lying defunct for years.

The last time the Sher-I-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Memorial Oration took place was in 2000. On the other hand, the Sher-I-Kashmir Dr Farooq Abdullah Oration ceased in 1994 and the last awards for research excellence were handed out in 2002. In fact, his grant of Rs 5 lakh in 1988-89 when the college was celebrating four decades of its existence has been lying unused and appreciating in the bank, from Rs 5 lakh to over Rs 15 lakh as of June 10 last year.

If you thought this was the nadir, wait, for things plummet further. Not a single cash prize or medal for excellence in college academics, as envisioned by Abdullah, have been given out. These set of awards is the most prestigious and the only ones with a cash component that SMS offers, or rather, offered.

The college administration maintains that these orations have been erratic because of the lack of interest in academics from both faculty members and students. “We have issued notices calling submissions for the orations thrice this year but no one has bothered to reply,” said one of the top academic officials at the college on the condition of anonymity.

The cash prize for the orations were also increased this year from Rs 11,000 to Rs 21,000 for the Sheikh Abdullah oration and from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 for the Farooq Abdullah oration with the hope it would draw some applicants. “Who has the time from clinical practice today? Teaching and research is a fulltime job,” he added.

However, the college, as one would expect, has never put out notices in newspapers. “Where do we get the money for that,” he asked. Letters are sent out to the faculty members who then “spread the word”. “This is certainly not befitting for the college. In fact, this is an indication of how things have deteriorated at the college,” the official added.

When contacted in New Delhi, Abdullah, who passed out in 1961-62, expressed anguish and amazement. “It is unfortunate for the money was not given so that it could grow in the bank. It was given so that doctors of eminence could come and lecture at the college for the benefit of the students,” he said. “I am coming to Jaipur on March 27 and I shall speak to the Principal to see what can be done about it,” he added. Time for the college now to pull up its socks rather than lay out a red carpet.

One of my reports for Hindustan Times


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