A seat of higher learning

With high hopes and great expectations a Degree College was granted to Bandipora in 2005
A seat of higher learning
GK Photo

Bandipora has a history of its own. The town was a big trade and literary centre of Kashmir, a connecting link between North India and Central Asia via the Silk Route. It was known as the Gateway to Central Asia. Bandipora has been traditionally known for 3As - Alim (knowledge), Adab (literature) and Aab (water).

Khuaihom in ancient and medieval history used to connect Kashmir with China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizistan, Turkamania, Afghanistan and Iran. The place has produced hundreds of scholars, intellectuals and explorers. Pir Gh Hassan Shah (1832-1998) popularly known as Hassan Khoyihami lived during 19th century in a village at Gamroo. He wrote four volumes dealing with geography, politics and aspects of human life including saints, rishis, poets of medieval and modern times. The Lone Brothers, famous explorers during late 19th and early 20th centuries, used to travel with westerners and famous dignitaries for hunting/scientific expeditions to China and Central Asia, and were very popular in Kazakhstan and other parts of Central Asia.

Unfortunately, during 1990s, Bandipora was perhaps the worst hit place in the whole Kashmir valley. The poor road connectivity worsened the scio-economic development of the region which reduced the significance of this otherwise important place. During 1990s, a 54 km long, one hour journey to Srinagar, would take half a day by bus. With its remotest locations like Gurez and Tulail having strategic importance, the road connectivity has not been upgraded to a National Highway.

Establishing a degree college in the town was a long pending demand, since early 80s. With high hopes and great expectations it was only in 2005 that a degree college was granted. It started functioning in higher secondary school Kaloosa. Named after Hassan Khoyihami, the college was established on a hilltop near Putushai village, approximately 6km distance from the main market. The people in Bandipora generally believe that the college was established without any proper planning, at a place which is far off from the main town and lacks proper road connectivity. The road through the village Putushai is a cumbersome journey which stretches over one km through narrow lanes with sharp bends, and finally a steep climb to the college. Any student on a full stomach will digest his entire food before reaching the college. The road connectivity via a village Mangnipora is nearly three kms from Putushai stop. This is not going to provide any relief to students who avoid both the routes and enter the campus through a short-cut footpath via orchards, lying between these two extreme routes. While these are hard realities, it seems equally impossible to have relocation of the campus to some other place. The most suitable solution would be to develop this campus, create more and more student facilities and build a road through this short-cut route. It would certainly end students' ordeal and add grace to the college campus.

One big concern for this co-ed institution is the construction of its 2 km long boundary wall to secure the college premises measuring 186-kunals. In absence of compound walling, stray dogs, cattle and unwanted people move around in the college compound. It poses a threat to the safety of students, especially girl students, and the staff. This issue was in limbo for last 15-years owing to various conflicts, court cases and other issues. Amid full scare of covid-19 virus and lockdowns, during the last two years, we have tried our best to address the issue and streamline the functioning of the institute. As Principal, when I joined this college on Ist May, 2020, I found the college campus converted into a quarantine centre. The main college building housing Principal's chamber, establishment and IT section etc., were completely sealed and occupied by Covid patients. But this didn’t dampen our spirits. We held meetings with the staff in a separate block and took stock of the situation.

The free access and unauthorized interference in the college campus has been a matter of great concern for College administration. After many meetings with the District Administration, Revenue Officials, Village Committees, a DPR was formulated and submitted to the Higher Education Department. The project was approved @ 238 lacs and funds were released. The fencing of the college, which some people in Bandipora thought shall never get underway, and compared it with that of building the Great Wall of China, started in March-2021. At present nearly 40% work on fencing has been completed. This project includes landscaping of the college; a playground will come up in the campus that will solve the long pending demand of students.

During covid-19 lockdowns, the college set a momentum for academics and research; conducted lectures, offline activities, renovated library, laboratories, streamlined office work and made many strides in improving the infrastructure in the campus. On the academic front, nearly 50 webinars/lectures which include national and international lectures on various academic and social issues from reputed institutions were conducted very successfully. Offline activities like road race, plantation drive, environmental issues, covid-19 awareness, and out-reach programs were undertaken. The issues of college canteen, and sports department were taken up with the Higher Education Department and four pre-fabricated huts, at the cost of 80-lakhs, were sanctioned. The Internet/WIFI, CCTV and drinking water facilities for students were established and two full-size washrooms were renovated. Electronic gadgets like Computers, Laptops, Printers, Inverters, and Photostat machines were repaired and made functional. GeM-Account was created for effecting purchases in an open and transparent manner. The audit report was responded to point by point, and action was taken on all the queries raised. Outstanding recoveries and liabilities were settled. Browsing centre and botanical garden were created. The maiden college newsletter was launched in March-2021 and another is about to be released. A lot of skill courses are in pipeline and ready to start in the campus. The work on face-lifting of main college building was undertaken. And most importantly, the NAAC process of the college was reactivated in 2020. All these aforesaid developments were appreciated by NAAC peer team members during their 2-day visit to the college.

Considering all the known challenges, the recent accreditation by NAAC with a CGPA of 2.15 on a seven point scale at B Grade in the very first cycle is indeed a great achievement for this remote college. Keeping in view, the robust mechanism adopted by NAAC for assessment and accreditation of institutions, and the grads achieved by our well established colleges in J&K, the performance shown by this institution is indeed an exemplary one. The NAAC peer team members during their visit to the institution on 24th-25th Sep 2021, expressed happiness and satisfaction over the performance of the college. They highly appreciated the research works carried out by some faculty members, the research projects they have obtained, and applauded the skill courses. The NAAC accreditation will allow the college administration to know its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to identify and reinforce areas for further improvement of the institute. With NAAC accreditation, this institution shall now be eligible for funds and other schemes by various organisations like UGC, RUSA and other agencies. The college will be able to further strengthen its infrastructure to secure even better grades in future. The campus which is located on a hilltop is in the lap of nature with a panoramic view of the Wullar Lake. It can be turned into a wondrful place with an amazing ambience for the transaction of quality education and other literary activities. But it needs sustained efforts.

(Dr Muhmmad Amin Malik author is a college principal)

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