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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

Located in the heart of Jammu, this college stands tall in science education

The foundation stone of the present campus was laid on July 1904 by the then resident of Kashmir, Sir Francis Young Husband. It was affiliated to Punjab University, Lahore, in May 1908.

punjab Updated: Jul 30, 2018 14:00 IST
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
Spread over 58 acres and surrounded by lush vegetation, the college dates back to 1904.
Spread over 58 acres and surrounded by lush vegetation, the college dates back to 1904.(HT photo)

Over a century on, the sheen may be off its buildings but Government Gandhi Memorial (GGM) Science College, formerly Prince of Wales College, continues to shine bright in science education.

Located in the heart of Jammu, the college is a legacy of the bygone era of undivided India and shows the foresight of the rulers of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Spread over 58 acres and surrounded by lush vegetation, the college dates back to 1904. Then Dogra ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh announced the setting up of the Prince of Wales College to commemorate the visit of the then Prince of Wales and future King George V, George Frederick Ernest Albert, to Jammu.

The college started functioning with 26 students on April 20, 1907, at the then Ajaibghar (old civil secretariat)
that was a princely property, with professor RN Mukherjee officiating as the first principal.

The foundation stone of the present campus was laid on July 1904 by the then resident of Kashmir, Sir Francis Young Husband. It was affiliated to Punjab University, Lahore, in May 1908.

The college was shifted to the present campus on September 18, 1912, with professor S Robson as the principal.

“At that time, there was no institution for higher studies in Jammu and its periphery. Students had to go to Lahore for higher education,” says Satinder Singh, 59, who is serving his third stint as principal and is the oldest teacher on the campus.

It was only after India’s independence that the college was renamed Government Gandhi Memorial Science College.

Design and cost

It is said that Maharaja Pratap Singh selected British army officer, colonial engineer and Jaipur-based architect, Sir Sameul Swinton Jacob, to design the campus. Based on his design, the state engineer estimated the cost of the proposed buildings to be Rs 4.53 lakh. But the then state government felt this was too high. Consequently, the then divisional engineer with state public works department revised the designs and the cost of construction was brought down to Rs 1.21 lakh.

Though the revised design reduced the total floor area, it didn’t alter the architectural features of the design by Sir Jacob.

It took about three years to construct the college.

The institution, which qualifies to be declared a heritage one, lies in a shambles and urgently needs preservation and maintenance. “In 2015, there was a University Grants Commission scheme to provide financial assistance to restore buildings that are more than 100 years old. The college submitted a proposal for financial assistance to the UGC but it is yet to be declared a heritage institution,” says Singh.

The college has also submitted a proposal of Rs 5.37 crore to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in February but things are moving at a snail’s pace, he says.

“This institution provides an ideal atmosphere for teaching and learning. Despite being located in the heart of the city, it is free from noise and pollution, a pre-requisite for effective education. Even the saplings, which have grown into trees, were brought from the United Kingdom,” he says.

A century-old visitors book
A century-old visitors book
Legacy a big draw

The principal says the college is a big draw with youngsters because of its reputation in academics, faculty, campus and tradition.

“We want to develop this college as a hub of scientific education. Our endeavour is to provide students world class education, while grooming them to become good human beings,” he says and adds with pride, “Many from our National Cadet Corps unit have gone on to join the armed forces.”

Talking of the school’s alumni, Singh says, “An elderly visiting professor came all the way from Canada along with his family. He wanted to see his classroom, labs and library. It was such a great feeling for us. He showed his children the entire campus. It was sheer nostalgia.”

The principal recollected how another former student from Pakistan came to the college along with noted journalist Ved Bhasin in 2011.

Dr BK Gandotra, 56, a chemistry professor, says he shares a special bond with the college. He was 22 when he graduated from this college in 1982 and returned as a teacher in 2001 for 10 years before being posted back to it in January. “During my student days, strikes were frequent. But now I find students are more disciplined,” he says. His proudest moment, however, is when his students from all walks of life acknowledge his contribution.

“I feel proud when my students who are now officials in banks and government departments come forward to express their love and gratitude.”

Hidden treasure

The geology department of the college has a fossilised tusk of Elephas Ganesa (Stegodon ganesa), considered to be 20-25 lakh years old. The 11 foot 3 inches long tusk was discovered in the Jagti Hills in Nagrota and is considered to be of the
pliocene-pleistocene age. The fossilised femur and partial palatine of the
Stegodon also catch the attention of the visitors.

“The department was set up in 1907 by DN Wadia, who belonged to Surat. The department is the second oldest in India, the first being at Presidency College in Kolkata. Wadia was adviser to first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru”, says department head CK Khajuria.

The fossilised tusk belongs to an extinct relative of the present day elephant. At that time, it was one of the longest fossilised tusks, Khajuria said. In 1924, this discovery was published in records of the Geological Survey of India.

The UGC plans to provide funds to convert the geology department into the Wadia Museum of Geology.

Pride of college

Doda deputy commissioner Simrandeep Singh is a former student of the college. He recalls when he was in the final year, he was awarded 100% in the geography practical. Jammu University’s external team, however, objected, saying it was unprecedented. “My teachers and the principal stood by me. When I cleared the IAS exam in 2008, I scored the highest in geography. One of the professors of Jammu University, who was part of the visiting team, even congratulated me, saying he now understood why my teachers fought so passionately to give me full marks,” he says.

Hemant Kumar Sharma, a Kashmir Administrative Service officer who is secretary, administrative reforms, inspections, trainings and grievances, says, “I graduated in 1978. My father had also graduated from this prestigious institution. The geology lab and library were the most impressive. The college subscribed to foreign publications. I read the entire PG Wodehouse series in the library.”

“The insignia of the college is in Irish and means ‘I serve’. My father tells me that during his time, the college had professors from England,” he adds.

Well-known alumni include former chief justices of India AS Anand and TS Thakur besides senior journalist Ved Bhasin.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 14:00 IST

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