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Wiping out heritage?

AT A time when there was no institution exclusively for women, the Queen Mary's College was set up for the education and emancipation of women on July 14, 1914. Initially named the Madras College for Women, the college came into being thanks to the efforts of Sir Sivaswamy Aiyer, who was member of the Governor's Executive Council. It was his suggestion that a Government college for women be established, which was approved of instantly by the then governor of Madras, Lord Pentland, (1913). And it was he who selected the first principal, Dorothy de la Hey, who remained so till 1935.

The founder-principal coined the motto of the first women's college — "Commonsense and consideration". The emblem instituted in the golden jubilee of the college in 1964, stands for loyalty to the university, state and the nation.

The college, which had trail-blazed women's education in the South, laid emphasis on the all-round development of its students. It has many firsts to its credit — the first women's college to start a college magazine, a students' union and to have been granted autonomous status in 1987. Students' self-government in the form of a students' union was started in 1928. Ever since, election of the college union president and office bearers has been taking place every year.

The college takes pride in bringing the best out of its students. The first woman Chartered Accountant of India, R. Sivabhogam, and the first woman neurosurgeon of the country, T. S. Kanaka, are alumnae of the QMC.

For its golden jubilee, the college had Dr. S. Radhakrishnan as the chief guest, and Indira Gandhi graced the diamond jubilee function. The platinum jubilee took place in 1990.

The college offers several under graduate and post-graduate courses and as many as 4,000 students study here now. The college is affiliated to the Madras University and was granted autonomy in 1987. (This status is granted to any college by the University Grants Commission, after considering various factors such as the age of the college, the place, the area and the extent of the site on which it is situated, the number of staff and students engaged in the various courses of study, the infrastructure, lab facilities, etc.)

Being autonomous, one wonders how the QMC could be disturbed from the place of its existence without following certain formalities such as making another full-fledged college ready for occupation in a place decided by the University and the UGC along with the governing body of the college, after such a proposal was made by the Government.

Without these, can this college, a premiere institution housing heritage buildings and working for the betterment of women, be taken over by the Government for the sake of building a secretariat complex? Is it proper to divide the faculties and attach them to three or four different colleges or to the University, direct the students to go to those colleges and divide the staff in the same manner? Will it not sound the death knell for QMC?

There are a number of wonderful spots in the city where Government buildings could be constructed.

If only the Government took a close look at the city map, `poromboke' lands which are either illegally occupied or are remaining vacant for long years could be spotted in several places and made use of for its varied projects.

Any building will fall into ruins after 70 years of existence. Is it not the duty of the Government to renovate heritage buildings and preserve them? Under these circumstances, one wonders whether the QMC will see its centenary celebrations in 2014.


(The author is an Advocate, Madras High Court.)

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