[Assam] Cotton College – the challenges ahead (The Assam Tribune,27.05.2007)

Buljit Buragohain buluassam at yahoo.co.in
Sat May 26 22:29:09 PDT 2007

                  Cotton College – the challenges ahead
— Dr Arup Kr HazarikaCotton College is one of the few institutions in the country in the pre-partition days earning the name and fame through out the country. It functioned as a focus of higher education in North Easter Region as well as a centre of excellence. The college was established in the year 1901 for improving the educational facilities British Assam (now the North East India). From the inception it played a crucial role in sociocultural and also in the educational development of the region. It was perhaps the last (Assam came under British rule only in 1826) of the few trend setter institutions created in British India. Cotton College, thus, played crucial role in building up of a great tradition and is still contributing significantly in the field of higher education and research.

Cotton College today offers undergraduate and postgraduate education in 22 subjects in Humanities, Social Sciences and Pure Sciences. It attracts some of the best students from the State of Assam and other states and still attracts a good number of bright scholars to its faculties. It is an institution of state importance and its importance has been finally recognised by the State Government.

On the 27th day of May, 1901, Sir Henry Cotton declared the college open at a meeting of the citizens of Assam convened for the purpose. On the same day arrived at Guwahati the first principal of Cotton College, Frederick William Sudmersen, who took up his residence for the time being, at the Dak Bungalow which later became the principal’s bungalow. The inaugural function was attended by leading men of Assam including Manik Chandra Borooah, Raja Prabhat Chandra Barua of Gauripur and Bhooban Ram Das. Sri Raghunath Chowdhury, the well-known Assamese poet, sang a song specially composed by him for the inaugural ceremony and was accompanied by Karmavir Nabin Chandra Bardoloi on the harmonium. The foundation of Cotton College was regarded with mixed feelings by the European planters, but hailed throughout Assam, because it marked the fulfillment of a long-cherished aspiration of the people of Assam. It is, no doubt, as important an event in the history of Assam’s education as
 the establishment of the Guwahati University in 1948. From a wider point-of-view, the establishment of Cotton College was an assertion of the concept of one Assam and strengthened the feeling of emotional unity among the inhabitants of the Valley and the Hills.

The college was located in 1901 in the single-structure building, which now houses the Chemistry Department and the Girl’s Common Room. It was a tin house and by no means, an impressive edifice, but housed in it all the departments of the college including classrooms, the science laboratory. The principal’s office, an examination hall and a library.

The first teaching staff of the college consisted of five members: Principal Sudmersen B.A. (London) who was also the professor of English literature; Sri Indu Bhusan Brahmachari, M.A. P.R.S., the, professor of Mathematics and Logic; Sri Chunilal De, M.A., the professor of Chemistry and Physics; Sri Paresh Nath Lahiri, M.A. the professor of Sanskrit and History of Greece and Rome and Maulvi Adu Nasr Muhammad Oheed the professor of Arabic, Persian and Hindusthani, Prof Oheed was, in addition, the superintendent of the Muslim hostel.

For decades Cotton College was administered by Britishers as principals. They by a strange process of logic, tried on preserve this institution as an outpost of British imperial rule in the country. They were genial men on the individual plane; what they lamentably missed was an insight into the prevailing mood and temper of the country. That young minds are rich in responses to just causes, they however failed to understand. By their refusal to accord permission to students to receive and welcome our national leaders on the college platform, the authorities injured the aspirations of the students; in the womb of these injuries the will to resist and protest was born. It grew into widening circles with ‘process of the sun.’

Over the years the number of enrolment into the various classes of the college has increased in number. Today Cotton College has about 5000 students in its rolls. The number of members in the teaching staff has gone up to the limit of about 240 or so with some posts lying vacant. Now Cotton College can compete with many high ranking institutions of All India rank. Cotton College has infrastructure-wise developed to the highest extend. The college has taken up massive programme to construct multiplex boys’ and girls’ hostels with all modern facilities, students’ recreation room and professors’ common rooms with all kinds of facilities. Recently, the college has been short listed as a college with potential excellence, which will benefit the institution with Rs. 60 lacs. Many of the Sciences Departments are sponsored by the FIST programme of Department of Science and Technology of Government of India. The college has also set up a placement cell, through which many
 multinational companies have knocked on the door of Cotton College to find out gems for their benefits. Already 74 graduates from various department of his college have been recruited.

Apart from this, the present Minister of Higher Education, Sri Ripun Borah along with the Directorate of Higher Education has taken full initiative and asked the premier institution to make the ideal ‘road map’ for near future. Accordingly, the teachers of Cotton College under the dynamic leadership of the present principal Dr I K Bhattacharya have planned a bright future for Cotton college. This new ‘road map’ includes many new buildings and of course introduction of many new courses like M.Phil, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, BCA and many other certificate courses.

Cotton College has been marching forward towards its 106th foundation day and the very declaration of the then President India in 1992– to consider Cotton College as a center of excellence would have been a matter of pride and prestige to the students, teachers and people of all section of Assam and North-east as a whole.

Of late, it is learnt from the college authorities that the present government is taking steps and schemes to make the college a Deemed University. The college authorities are also trying their best to avail the opportunity at the earliest.

The deemed university status is conferred on colleges by the University Grant Commission under Section 3 of the UGC Act, based on quality and other parameters. The status is subject to a periodical review. Once they get the status, these universities do not need to report to the State Government or a university on academic and administrative matters. The academic monitoring is done directly by the UGC.
(Published on the occasion of 106th foundation day of Cotton College).


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