Posts Tagged ‘Vice Chancellor’

Panjab University Chandigarh 1947-2007

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on August 15th, 2020 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

The Tribune, Chandigarh (Op-ed page) 1 October 2007

60 years of Panjab University
In pursuit of excellence

by Rajesh Kochhar

PANJAB UNIVERSITY Chandigarh completes sixty years of its eventful existence on October 1, 2007. The occasion provides a convenient opportunity for taking stock of the past, understanding the present and planning for the future.
It is no coincidence that the University’s diamond jubilee closely follows that of India’s independence. Indeed, one of the very first acts of independent India was the establishment of a University as a successor to and in continuation of the University of the Punjab at Lahore (established 14 October 1882) which fell into Pakistan’s lap, even as most students and teachers crossed to India. By a coincidence, the diamond jubilee of Panjab University coincides to the month with the 125th anniversary of its Lahore precursor.

It was naively expected that the Lahore University would conduct the examinations for both parts of the Punjab even after partition, but that was not to be. East Panjab University, as it was then called, had to be “hustled into an unceremonious birth” through the promulgation of an ordinance, without even a Vice-Chancellor, leave aside any infrastructure. (Panjab was advisedly spelt with an initial “a” to distinguish the new University from the old. The appellation East was dropped by both the state and the University in 1956.)

The University began with a part-time Vice-Chancellor, Justice Teja Singh (February 9, 1948 – March 31 1949), whose successor Mr G.C. Chatterjee served for merely four months (April 1 – July 31 1949). The appointment now went to Dewan Anand Kumar (1894-1981) who remained at the helm of affairs for eight long and crucial years (August 1, 1949 – June 30, 1957) through four terms of two years each.

Kumar joined at Lahore in 1920 as a Reader in zoology and was appointed Dean of University Instruction in 1946, a post he continued to hold in the new University. He was also, since 1924, a member of Dyal Singh College Trust Society as well as Dyal Singh Public Library Trust, Lahore. It was left to him to administer both these after partition.
Extremely wealthy in his Lahore days through his inheritance of a 6000 acre landed estate, aristocratic, benevolent, imbued with a strong sense of noblesse oblige, well-connected, related to the Nehrus through ties of marriage (Brij Kumar Nehru was his sister’s son),and committed to high academic and ethical standards, the Cambridge – educated Kumar (affectionately and reverentially known as the Dewan Sahib in his time) is the true builder of the University as we know it today.
“Over some difference of opinion with the Chief Minister [Pratap Singh Kairon], Kumar retired from the Vice-Chancellorship in 1957.” While the administrative offices moved to Chandigarh in 1956, teaching department assembling in Chandigarh 1958 onwards. The honour of leading the University from its elegant new home thus befell Dr Amar Chand Joshi whose tenure extended from 1 July 1957 to 30 July 1965.

After a brief sojourn in a cramped Simla, the University offices shifted to hill-top military barracks spread over an area of about eight kilometers in Solan. Kumar functioned from here till 1953 when he shifted to Delhi because of a heart problem.

To meet educational aspirations of the large number of Punjabi refugees now in Delhi, East Panjab University was permitted to intrude into Delhi University’s jurisdiction and start an evening Camp College, with tents serving as a hostel. It is here that the journalism department was restarted in 1948, which borrowed the services of eminent journalists as faculty. (It shifted to Chandigarh in June 1962.) The Camp College itself was acquired by the Dyal Singh College Trust in 1959.

As early as October 1947, physics and chemistry classes were started under the auspices of Delhi University on an initiative by students like Prof. Yash Pal, while chemical engineering was accommodated in Delhi Polytechnic.
For the rest, the University had to depend on the reluctant charity of colleges and schools within its own territory. For full 11 years the University Punjabi department within Khalsa College Amritsar prepared students for the lower-level Gyani and Vidvan examinations only while the M.A. classes remained under the control of the College, as before.
Commerce classes were shifted from Bakrota in Dalhousie after two years to an evacuee property in Jullundur when it was realised that because of the high cost of living in Dalhousie, “only the rich people could afford to send their children there”. Concern for the under-privileged which was so typical of those days seems to have been forsaken by its erstwhile beneficiaries.

In October 1948 Kapurthala, then in Pepsu, offered to host all science departments, but the East Punjab Chief Minister Gopi Chand Bhargava was adamant that the University would not go out of the state. Finally, early 1949, the Government College Hoshiarpur was placed at the disposal of the University. Under the name University College, it became the dominant, but not the sole, seat of the University.

The dual control did cause some problems but the arrangement generally worked well. Prof. Ram Prakash Bambah, who later became the Vice-Chancellor, joined at Hoshiarpur as a Reader in mathematics. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was an economics student and then a research scholar at Hoshiarpur. (Later he served in Chandigarh also.)

In 1956, on the eve of merger of PEPSU with East Punjab, it was belatedly suggested that the University be housed in the former’s capital Patiala to “maintain the prestige of that town”. The University however rejected the suggestion, one of the recorded argument being that “Patiala still had a feudal atmosphere while Chandigarh was free from any such thing”.

Chronologically, a product of the mid 20th century, Panjab University is culturally anchored in the 19th century, because the Lahore University’s extant rules and regulations were simply re – validated in 1947. Unlike Bengal where the British were dealing with a social class they themselves had created and enriched, in Punjab they had to come to terms with pre-existing social elites which were duly represented in the University’s governing body, the Senate.
Increasingly worried about the growing Indian nationalism, the colonial government wanted to exercise control over the universities. For the native leadership, Senate was a forum for articulating nationalist aspirations. With passage of time after independence, the Senates seem to have generally lost much of their original focus.

The University was amply compensated for its early travails by the provision of a beautiful campus in the new city of Chandigarh. The University does not carry any scars from its early days, which is a good thing. But memories of the heroism of those days can serve as an inspiration.

Burying aesthetics to raise buildings, not done! ( Panjab University Campus Chandigarh)

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on July 29th, 2019 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

For the past many years, Panjab University vice-chancellors (VCs) have been complaining of shortage of working space and demanding that the situation be remedied. A few months ago, it was reported that the present VC had expressed his keenness for a new office. Obligingly, the budgetary committee has sanctioned the construction of a two-storeyed extension building, according to a plan that was prepared a few years ago. By way of explanation, it has been recorded that there is a need for a new annexe because a lot of staff are working in the basement of the present VC office building, facing inconvenience. According to a present estimate, the proposed construction will cost more than Rs 4 crore. If past experience is any guide, the final cost will be substantially higher.

The proposal has met with opposition from faculty members and others who have rightly pointed out that under the present resource crunch, such an extravagance couldn’t be justified.

Conscious of the adverse public opinion, constrained by the realities of numbers in the Syndicate, and hoping to start the second year of his tenure on a pleasant note, the VC has flatly denied that there was any plan of this sort. This means that the plan would be taken up again when the time is opportune.

There are aspects of the plan, which have not received attention. Even if funding were not a problem, even if the university were overflowing with money, an additional building as envisaged should not be built on historical and aesthetic grounds.

People have been talking of the present VC office as if it were an independent building. VC’s office itself is an annexe to the main chemical engineering building! The small building was meant to accommodate the offices of the department head. The chemical engineering building stands apart from other academic blocks. It is a long imposing edifice. To soften its forbidding effect and break the monotony, a small, one-storeyed building was constructed at its front. If another building is raised adjoining the present VC office, it will be violence to the aesthetics of the whole structure.

Chemical engineering department building was the first one to be completed on the new campus. When Amar Chand Joshi, the first VC to function from Chandigarh, set up his office, there was no other space for him except the present one. He in fact shared space with the chemical engineering head. Right into the 1960s, VC and the department head sat under the same roof. In the course of time, the department head was moved out.

If the VC is the usurper of chemical engineering space, the senate hall is an unauthorised construction in the main administrative building. In its original plan, open space is left in the middle of the building to bring light and air to the rooms. This space was converted into a meeting place for senators and syndics.

It is obvious that the original architects of Panjab University campus would not have planned for VC to operate from a teaching department. Old plans should be dug up to see what arrangements were envisaged for VC and other high functionaries as well as for Senate meetings.

VC’s office in the chemical engineering block was a stop-gap arrangement even though it has continued for 60 years. This stop-gap arrangement must be brought to an end and the aesthetics of the whole structure respected.

Already enough slummification of Sector 14 has taken place. Mathematics department building co-houses psychology department. If more space was needed for mathematics, psychology should have been shifted to new premises and mathematics department given the vacated space. This was not done. Instead a new building was constructed behind its building. Teaching blocks in the university are rectangular and run parallel. This new building is a square one and is the only building for teaching on the campus, which has a courtyard. Original architects of the university would not have approved of it.

The university, in its wisdom, decided to affix the name Gandhi Bhawan on the building itself. This building must rank among the most beautiful buildings in India constructed in the modern era. The ugly sign board has disfigured the building forever. The first principle of renovation is that it should be reversible.

Old buildings should be left strictly alone as far as outward appearance is concerned. There should be a moratorium on new buildings in Sector 14 unless a provision exists in the master plan. Keeping the long-term interests of the university in mind, the authorities should prepare a plan for a suitable structure for the VC’s office with provision for other related activities, even if it takes many years to fructify. More specifically, the chemical engineering buildings, according to the original plan, should be left strictly alone even if a VC feels cramped in the space available to him. FaceBook maxweb Twitter maxweb linkedin maxweb googleplus maxweb facebook facebook ChandigarhCity.Info facebook facebook