Tirupati: Appa Rao Podile, Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad University who was in the eye of a storm following suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, received an award for outstanding contribution in the field of bio-tech and higher education from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

Rao was conferred with the 'Millennium Plaques of Honour' at the Indian Science Congress here along with several scientists who were awarded for their contribution in the field of science. He was given the Millennium Plaques of Honour for his outstanding contribution in the field of bio-technology and also for his work in higher education, said Prof D Narayan Rao, President of the Indian Science Congress 2017. Six Nobel laureates were also felicitated for their achievements. "The (S&T) department has no role to play in this. The awards are decided by the Indian Science Congress, which is an autonomous body," DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma said.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said the awards are decided by the Indian Science Congress and the government has no role to play in it. The statement assumes significance as Appa Rao was vice chancellor when research scholar Rohit Vemula committed suicide in the University hostel.

Podile said he was honoured for his guidance and leadership in the field of science and technology. "I am on the Department of Science and Technology's Programme Advisory Committee on Plant Sciences and also a member of the Task Force for Biological Agents for Agriculture for the last 10-12 years," the VC said.

Podile was in the eye of a storm after Vemula committed suicide in 2016 alleging harassment by the University management. Podile's role had come under a scanner after Vemula and five students were suspended from hostel. The HCU students had staged protests for days demanding Podile's removal.

PTI