The scenically set Post-Matric Hostel on Fine Arts Avenue constantly gazes into the Vembanad Lake and the flurry of activities on it. Its peeling wall plaster and worn out floors tells of its legacy — of being one of the first hostels for the Scheduled Caste community in pre-Independent India.

The Post-Matric Hostel has a grand history and an alumni community, including Union ministers A. K. Antony and Vayalar Ravi, who were admitted to the hostel on the basis of reservation for students from the economically weaker section.

The hostel is the successor to the one established by Harijan Seva Sangham in 1938 for students from the socially backward communities at a time when it was virtually impossible for even the brightest students from the community to make it past their school education.

It was the visionary in K. P. Vallon, social reformer and member of the Cochin Legislative Council, that prompted him to take up the cause of these students by shouldering the burden of running the hostel.

Out of the new hostel, which was located opposite the YMCA on Chitoor Road, emerged leaders like P. K. Chathan and Kochukuttan, who later became a minister in the Travancore Legislative Council.

The hostel, initially established and run by the Seva Sangham with voluntary contributions, had fallen on bad days and it was on the verge of closure when the Mr. Vallon took up the cause of the students. Through constant struggle he ran the hostel for 20 students quite successfully, recalls advocate K. V. Kumaran, 85, son of Vallon.

However, Vallon’s untimely death in 1940 at 43, plunged the hostel’s future into jeopardy. It was when Mr. Kumaran decided to step in. Prior to that the experience of running a hostel on commercial basis had given rise to flourishing businesses in some parts, which the then Thirukochi minister, Sahodaran Ayyappan, discouraged vehemently.

Mr. Kumaran remembers that at that time government provided a stipend of Rs. 45 a month to students from socially weak communities and a yearly grant of Rs. 60 each to them. A decision was taken to lease a building on Netteppadam Road. The hostel was then named Renaissance in 1952.

The Renaissance Hostel was later taken over by the state government and relocated on Fine Arts Avenue as ‘Cosmopolitan Hostel’, where Mr. Antony and Mr. Ravi were one of the first entrants in 1963.

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