Manmohan Singh’s Panjab University chair looks for new incumbent

Chandigarh, Aug 2 (IANS) Former prime minister Manmohan Singh may not be holding any post now but an academic chair in his name is awaiting a new incumbent.

The ‘Dr. Manmohan Singh Chair’ in Panjab University’s Department of Economics fell vacant after the first occupant, noted economist Ajit Singh, passed away in June.

“We will fill up the chair soon. However, it needs time to do so. Some names have been suggested and we are looking into those,” Panjab University (PU) Vice Chancellor Arun Grover told IANS here.

During his stint at PU (2012-2015), Ajit Singh carried out research work on international economics and emerging markets.

“He was conducting research at PU on a few topics, some of which have been published,” PU professor Gurmail Singh, who was coordinating with Ajit Singh during his visits and research, told IANS.

The chair was instituted in 2009 by PU authorities when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister. He is an alumnus of the university and had even taught here in the 1960s.

For nearly three years, PU had failed to find any big name to accept the assignment. PU had offered the chair to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen in July 2010 but did not get his acceptance. The chair, after much delay, was offered to Ajit Singh, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Cambridge and life fellow at Queen’s College, Cambridge, in May 2012.

Ajit Singh, also a PU alumnus and former student of Manmohan Singh, began teaching economics at Cambridge in 1965. He held important international assignments, including senior economic adviser to the governments of Mexico and Tanzania and a consultant to various UN organisations, including the ILO, UNCTAD and UNIDO, as also the World Bank.

“During his economics career in Cambridge, Professor Singh published several books and monographs as well as nearly 200 research papers, including 90 in refereed economic journals,” the Queen’s College website states.

Panjab University, which was ranked No.1 among all academic institutions of higher learning in the country by the Times Higher Education World Rankings 2013-14, is listed as a University Grants Commission ‘Centre of Excellence’. Despite this, it has not been able to rope in eminent scholars of varied fields to occupy specially instituted chairs for high-end research work.

Manmohan Singh graduated with honours and also acquired a masters degree from PU in the early 1950s. He later joined its Department of Economics and became a full professor at the young age of 32. He later left the university and the rest, as they say, is history.

University officials told IANS that a chair is “created in the name of a visionary, scholar or renowned personality on a particular subject to provide a platform for research work”. When the Manmohan Singh chair was instituted, it was the first time this was done for a living person.

Established in 1882 in Lahore, now in Pakistan, PU was re-located to its present sprawling campus in Chandigarh’s Sector 14 and 25 in 1956 after the country’s partition in 1947. It is one of India’s oldest universities.

Its noted alumni also include former president Shankar Dayal Sharma, former prime minister I.K. Gujral, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra, Nobel laureate Hargobind Khorana, Jnanpith award winner and Sanskrit scholar Satya Vrat Shastri, astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the country’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, union ministers Sushma Swaraj and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, former union ministers Kapil Sibal, Selja and Pawan Kumar Bansal, actor Anupam Kher, comedian/actor Jaspal Bhatti, Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate Mohammed Abdus Salam and several others.

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