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Magnum opus author

Dr. V.M. Bachal, former principal of Pune’s renowned Fergusson College, is all set to release a series of books tracing the history of this premier college in its 125th jubilee year. To be published in Marathi, the books will also trace the socio-economic growth of Pune (aka Poona, pop. 4 million), which has grown from a small military cantonment into a modern metropolis and manufacturing hub.

Compiling the history of this showpiece college of Pune University, which affiliates 520 colleges with an aggregate enrollment of 650,000 students, and is the alma mater of former prime ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and V.P. Singh and thespians Shreeram Lagu and Smita Patil, has been akin to documenting a personal journey for the author.

Dr. Bachal has been closely involved with this institution ever since he enrolled as a student of the Deccan Education Society which promoted Fergusson College in 1885. From then on till his induction into the principal’s office in 1993, Bachal has been tracking the college’s path to greatness. Having painstakingly collected official records that were published by the college in 1935, ’45, ’60, ’85 and 2005, he has compiled the information into a three-volume series, with the first volume covering the period 1885-1935, the second 1936-1985, and the third highlighting its milestones from 1986. Titled Vatchal Sawashe Varshanchi (‘Journey of 125 Years’) the first volume was released in Fergusson College on February 6.

Bachal conceived the idea of a comprehensive history of Pune’s most well-known undergrad college while editing a 2005 souvenir. “Many people within the Pune region are unfamiliar with the English language. I wanted them to become acquainted with the history of this great institution,” says Bachal, explaining the choice of Marathi as his medium of writing.

The first volume of this compendium traces the political, educational and socio-economic history of Pune, and details the educational institutes promoted in the city after the end of  Peshwa rule in the 17th century. It reveals how Fergusson College was established through the pioneering efforts of social and political stalwarts Lokmanya Tilak, Vishnushastri Chiplonkar, Ganesh Agarkar and Madhavrao Namjoshi. It also traces the growth and development of the Deccan Education Society (established in 1884), and the revision of its constitution after the murder of the British garrison commander Capt Rand, when a plague epidemic swept Pune in 1896.

Other milestone events of Fergusson College: it was inaugurated by William Wordsworth, the grandson of the eponymous 18th century poet; the choice of its name was on account of its first patron Sir James Fergusson, whose views on education were respected even by Indian revolutionaries of the time. But for Dr. Bachal, what distinguishes Fergusson College is the fact that it was one of the first instit-utions of higher education to mandate reservation for the educationally backward, defined on the basis of poverty, caste, religion and other criteria.

The second part of this three-volume history will be released in September, and the third will coincide with the 125th anniversary of Fergusson College in January 2010.

Huned Contractor (Pune)

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