EDUCATION & INDUSTRY: To Cambridge, on Nano – Tata honoured, Mamata not yet – acquiring wealth to distribute it ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY AMIT ROY
London, June 22: Mamata Banerjee has been wanting to make a splash at Cambridge for some time now but she has been beaten to the draw by Ratan Tata, who was conferred an honorary degree yesterday by the university in his capacity as one of India’s most innovative captains of industry.
The invitation to the railway minister to come and engage in a round-table discussion with others at Cambridge still stands but it may be some time before she dons a red gown appropriate to Doctor of Law Honoris Causa (Latin for “as a mark of honour”) and takes part in a ceremony going back 500 years, as happened to Tata yesterday.
Tata seems to have been honoured specifically for making the Nano, which Mamata fought successfully to keep out from Singur.
The citation, read out in Latin by university orator Dr Rupert Thomson, makes a reference to the Nano. A loose translation: “Indeed, buying a car was once an expensive affair, which the majority in India could scarcely imagine. But then our honorand came along and produced the Tata Nano, the cheapest car ever built.”
Tata was “overjoyed”, reported Anwar Hasan, managing director of Tata Ltd in the UK, who accompanied the chairman of the Tata group to Cambridge on what was described as “a magical day”.
From Corpus Christi College, where he attended a reception with seven other distinguished “honorands”, “Tata Naval Tata, Hon KBE” joined a procession led by the Duke of Edinburgh, the chancellor of the university; Dr Alison Richard, its vice-chancellor; and other officials to the Senate House where he heard a fulsome citation in Latin before receiving his honorary degree.
Among the few Indians to have been similarly honoured in recent years are Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen in 2009, both of whom studied economics as undergraduates at Cambridge, the former at St John’s and the latter at Trinity, where he eventually became Master.
Outlining the group’s philosophy, Tata said: “We have always tried to help people in need. One of the tenets of the Tata family has been you acquire wealth to distribute it. So 65 per cent of dividends of our holding company go to charitable trusts which distribute that, so we have been doing it for a hundred years.”
“He met lots of Cambridge folk,” said a university spokesperson. “He came up on Sunday and spent the whole day yesterday in Cambridge and went to the Institute for Manufacturing where he met (its head) Prof Mike Gregory and the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics.”
Tata’s visit certainly opens up the possibilities for enhanced collaboration with scientists doing cutting-edge research in Cambridge. The Tata group is said to be the biggest employer in the manufacturing sector in Britain since it owns Corus, Jaguar and Land Rover, along with Tetley Tea and an IT firm in Peterborough through Tata Consultancy Services.
Tata did not spend his time punting along the Cam although it was an idyllic summer’s day in Cambridge.
“He spent two hours with us before the degree ceremony and brought a lot of his senior executives with him,” Prof Ann Dowling, head of the engineering department at Cambridge, told The Telegraph.
“He asked some great questions,” enthused Dowling, who found her visitor “a lovely man, quiet, thoughtful”.
Mamata’s isn’t a lost cause, incidentally, for the university statutes allow for honorary degrees to be awarded to “foreigners of distinction”.
About nine distinguished persons are usually nominated each year. Any person may suggest a name and several dozen proposals are made each year. These are reviewed by a committee of the university’s council, chaired by the vice-chancellor, which makes final recommendations.
In 800 years at Cambridge, no one has been honoured yet for doing fieldwork in the politics of the bandh or keeping agricultural land free of industry. But there is always a first time for these things.