A shot at blending modernity with tradition
The women’s college does not allow students to carry mobiles on campus; institute management is of the opinion that technology is dominating the minds of the youth.
A studio for the newly introduced course in cosmetology and healthcare at Ferozepur’s age-old Dev Samaj Post Graduate College for Women is no less than a spa at a luxurious resort. The institute, which came up in 1934 under the Dev Samaj Hindu sect, however, still upholds traditional values. Its students are not allowed to carry cellphones, not even in the hostel that also happens to be without Wi-Fi .
And this despite the fact that daughters from many of Punjab’s prominent political families have studied here.
“Modernity and tradition should go together, and the Dev Samaj college that came up in 1934 reflects that,” says Madhu Prashar, the principal, pointing out to the hi-tech information technology (IT) lab terminals, the only source for the girls to surf the net.
She and the institute are “of the opinion that technology is dominating the minds of the youth. They become a tool of technology, instead of technology being a tool for them.”
Checks are strict. The campus has just two public call offices (PCOs) with numerous landline phones for the 800 hostellers to contact their parents or siblings. And every number is noted to match the enlisted family members the girls can call from the PCOs.
“It is a mobile-free campus, I am very conservative in that,” Prashar affirms.
As it is vacation time, Hindustan Times, touring the campus, can only spot four hostellers. All undergraduates, none of them are carrying cell phones.
“We are relaxed (without cell phones),” says Rizul Delu, a second year English honours student who belongs to a family of land owners in Abohar. She and the other three hostel inmates have opted not to go home for the holidays.
As there are strict restrictions on movement, the young women have also not ventured out of campus on their own to explore Ferozepur city.
“This is part of the age-old tradition of the college,” explains the principal, who joined way back in 1992.
The students’ visit to the Shaheed Bhagat Singh memorial at the Hussainiwala border close by has been a part of the college’s “educational trip”.
It’s not that the students are left wanting. The campus provides them everything from a chemist to dry-cleaner out of its 30 shops.
“The college has its own heritage and cultural values. It has a history of fighting for the sake of girls’ education,” Prashar says.
About 30 girls, six of them Muslims were in the first batch admitted to college in 1934. Many families were then against educating their daughters. “There was a lot of hue and cry, but Bhagwan Dev Atma (the founder of the Dev Samaj sect) took the stand to educate the girls free of cost at that time,” says the principal.
Remembering her college days, 82-year-old Dr Shavinder Kaur Johal, mother-in-law of Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal, said, “Those were the pretty good days, as my entire school fees at Dev Samaj was remitted because we had no money after coming from Pakistan.”
The octogenarian who pursued medical studies at Lady Hardinge College in Delhi, remembers her principal Dharam “Veerji, as we used to call him. He was a gem of a person.”
A number of political families sent their daughters to study here. The college website mentions the sister of former chief minister Beant Singh, sisters of the late Union minister Balram Jakhar; mother and sisters of veteran politician Jagmeet Brar and sisters of former chief minster Parkash Singh Badal as “the distinguished alumnae of this institution”.
Other notable ex students include the late Sarla Grewal, the first woman IAS from Punjab and first woman deputy commissioner of Shimla in 1956.
“Then there was Dr Priya Bali, the first woman director of Lady Irwin College in Delhi,” remembers Prashar.
Sushila Arora( first lady class-I magistrate), Prem Sikhar and Santosh Madhoke (first women income tax officers at Bombay and Delhi, respectively) also studied here.
Starting out initially with just MA English and MA history with BA in humanities programmes, the college now offers 11 undergraduate and 14 post-graduate degree courses ranging from science, commerce and social sciences.