On Friday, a key institution of Chennai — Pachaiyappa’s College — will celebrate a significant milestone: Dodransbicentennial. And on the occasion, students of the college and its alumni feel it is time to invest in restoring its heritage structures.
As the institution, whose premises are spread over 43 acres along the Poonamallee High Road, celebrates 175 years of existence, concern over the maintenance of heritage infrastructure and other facilities is bringing students and alumni associations on a common platform. Started as a preparatory school in January 1842 at Broadway, with an endowment left by Pachaiyappa Mudaliar in 1794, the institution had to move to Chetpet as it started expanding. The new buildings were opened on August 12,1940, by Sir Arthur Hope, the then Governor of Madras.
However, the student’s hostel buildings, constructed in 1921, were the earliest to be established on the campus. Members of the alumni associations and former teachers note that it would be the best time to renovate the structures of heritage value and improve the educational facilities.
The hostel blocks are in dire need of maintenance and the remnants of the broken domes that have fallen around the campus are indicative of the glorious past, certainly of its architecture. The three blocks of hostel mess with a terracotta tiled roof were once occupied to their full capacity. Now, the staff members note, one of them is used for cooking and the other two as a mess.
The charming and serene campus continues to appeal to film-makers. Staff members note that some scenes of Vijay-starrer ‘Kathi’ were shot at the hostel site. B. Varadharajan, an alumni of the college, recalls that the college was much sought after for Commerce and Physics courses.
“We had the best football team in the State and several old students still play football on the campus,” he added. Started with 600 students in the Broadway campus, the Pachaiyappa’s College now has 4,404 students. K.M. Umarajan, head of Botany Department, said “The college became a government aided institution after 1968. We regard George Norton as the second founder of the Pachaiyappa’s Charities as he was instrumental in establishing the college. We have 18 courses and some of them have two sections too.”
In a bid to improve the quality of education, the authorities have planned to establish a digital library and focus on postgraduate courses. S. Kaliraj, college principal, said efforts are on to renovate heritage structures. There are also plans to admit more women students in UG courses.
Meanwhile, a section of alumni members opposed the celebrations, alleging corruption in the Pachaiyappas Trust Board that was to blame for the poor maintenance of infrastructure, which also affected the quality of education.
Alumni associations have been seeking permission to renovate the heritage structures and plant saplings in place of trees lost during Cyclone Vardah in 2016.
Some of the other issues they have put forth include holding annual convocation and initiating measures to make it an autonomous institution.