Dyal Singh to Vande Matram College debate: an alumnus’ take

Evening Colleges were and are a novel idea as they stretch the limited resources and infrastructure for optimum utilisation. The first such college was established in 1958 as Dyal Singh Evening College. The positives of having an evening college were manifold (discussed later in the article). Now, it is all set to be converted into a morning college according to reports, rechristened as ‘Vande Mataram Mahavidyalya’. This would be third such recognition, after Deshbandhu Evening College became Ramanujan College in 2010 and Ram Lal Anand Evening College became Aryabhatta College in 2014. Thus on the offset, it is neither unprecedented nor unusual.

Yet, this particular transition has managed to grab headlines for two particular reasons. First, it is believed that in the modern context, ‘Vande Mataram’ is not entirely secular and contrary to what Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia stood for. Secondly, that the transition will leave the already deficient Dyal Singh College worse off in terms of infrastructure.

Before I can comment of any of the two issues, let’s briefly assess the merits and demerits of having an evening college. Evening colleges as mentioned above helped in full utilisation of available resources and infrastructure as the bifurcation allows for accommodating twice as many students in morning and evening batches. The timings were also a big asset, many women and men who had to leave their education due to various reasons like financial woes or family responsibility, could manage to get a degree from a reputed university while working side-by-side. Thirdly, evening colleges tends to have lower cut-offs, this allows students to choose their preferred streams which they otherwise are not able to secure in morning colleges. Lastly, evening colleges are excellent for people who want to appear in competitive examinations as the evening timings allow them to attend coaching and devote a few extra hours in the library.

Conversely, the University has failed to maintain the standards of evening colleges. It is a general perception, perpetuated by the lackadaisical approach of Delhi University towards evening colleges, that evening colleges are meant for non-serious students. This has resulted in denial of opportunities to students. An evening college finds it harder to bring in companies that offer good placements, sponsorship for cultural events, and face infrastructural conflict with morning counter-parts staking a higher claim. Secondly, as it is the case with Dyal Singh College, certain assets are bifurcated to the detriment of the students. The College had to sport two different libraries instead of a combined, bigger one because the administrative controls are different. Thus, it has two sub-standard libraries with inadequate seats rather than an ideal bigger one. Lastly, the burdens of sporting evening colleges have been stacked on South Campus colleges alone, without a single evening college in the North Campus. This normally results in lack of hostel space for outstation students in South Campus colleges. Almost all North Campus colleges have hostels while South campus ones have to accommodate additional buildings for evening colleges.

Coming back to Dyal Singh College, as far as secularism is concerned, it should lie not in the name but the functioning of college. If the college functions just the same as it used to before, and as of now we have no reason to believe the contrary, the affair is fairly secular. This is without going into the nuances of how ‘Vande Mataram’ can be perceived as communal or devoid of secular spirit merely because of the proactive usage by the political right. This is one of the reasons for major discontent among the left-liberal section of students, who see it as an attempt to saffronize the campus. Yet, ironically, most of the students and faculty with similar views and beliefs are against any kind of autonomy to institutions which they perceive as an attempt to privatize education. An autonomous Dyal Singh could have resisted such arbitrariness more effectively or rather wouldn’t have to deal with it in the first place. Now that a bifurcation has taken place, it effectively seals the fate of Dyal Singh College to remain under the diktat of Delhi University for the years to come. Thus, it should be a reason for rejoice rather than remorse.

Otherwise, speaking as an alumnus, Dyal Singh College has done well for itself in the recent past. The principal is a hard taskmaster and has managed to tame its ruffian image. It has made huge improvements in terms of infrastructure with thorough renovations and managed to secure the 8th spot in Ministry of Human Resource Development ranking. It was also well on its way to secure autonomy for itself when the time came, but now with two colleges in the same premises the future is grim. Colleges like Shri Ram College of Commerce and Lady Shri Ram College for Women have shown how having a little more leg-room in decision making can do wonders for the college. Unfortunately, Dyal Singh College will now have to wait longer for its turn.

It has a large area of 11 acres which is not inadequate for sporting two colleges if the area is judiciously used. But was certainly not the need of the hour, the benefit of students would have been more adequately catered by the addition of a hostel or a larger auditorium. As for the perception goes, the new Vande Mataram Mahavidyalya will have an even harder time convincing students to pick it over other colleges as it lacks both an infrastructure of a proper morning college and the convenience of being an evening college.

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