By Manas Behera*
Rama Devi Women’s College is celebrating its golden jubilee this year. It is a matter of great pride for the college that the Hon’ble President of India will inaugurate its golden jubilee celebrations along with hon’ble Governor and hon’ble Chief Minister.
This great temple of learning started its historic journey in August, 1964 in the then Labour Department of the state government with only 42 students. It came into its present campus in 1969. The new building was inaugurated by the then education minister Banamali Pattnaik. Like many other things in the state, this institution too was conceived by the visionary Biju Pattanaik.
In the five decades of its existence, Ramadevi College has successfully evolved into the most sought after institution of Higher Education not only for girl students of not just the state, but also neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Sprawled over 23 acres in the heart of the capital city of Bhubaneswar, it caters to the needs of 5000 students from +2 to PhD level. It has 18 departments at the honours level and has post-graduate departments in Hindi and Home-Science. It also offers MPhil courses in Home Science and the Department has been selected as the nodal centre for PhD programme in Home Science by the Utkal University with 10 seats.
It is the only college in the state which imparts NCC as an elective subject at the degree level. This institution got the Lead College Status in1994 and was conferred Autonomous status by the UGC in 1999 for its excellent infrastructure and quality education. The A-grade accreditation by NAAC in 2004 and its recognition as a centre with potential for excellence (CPE) in 2004 were important landmarks in its journey towards excellence.
There are four hostels in the college at present with the capacity of accommodating 840 students only. Inadequate hostel facility has been a dampener for the students from the periphery. But with the government deciding to sanction three new hostels with a capacity of 400 seats each and a 50- seat hostel for differently-abled students in this golden jubilee year, this inadequacy is soon going to be a thing of the past. Once these hostels come up, no student will face the difficulty of accommodation and this college will emerge as the first college in the state with full hostel facility. This in itself is a historic achievement.
The college has a well-stocked library with more than 50000 books, laboratories spread over 12, 000 sq. ft, an air-conditioned auditorium, a language lab, a counselling cell, a gymnasium, a canteen, a museum, playground and many other facilities that would be the envy of other institutions of higher learning.
Institutions, however, are made not just by infrastructure, but also with the human resources. In this respect too, Ramadevi scores very high. More than 90 committed teachers of this college are the most valuable asset of this institution, who transform this huge building to a man-making machine. With their knowledge, dedication and affection for students, they not only teach but produce human resources to be engaged in nation building for inclusive development of the nation.
The College is named after Rama Devi choudhury, fondly called as Maa Rama Devi, and is proud of her legacy, sacrifice and values. Though born in a thoroughly patriarchal society, she defied the prevailing social order that required women to be confined to the kitchen and joined the nationalist movement at the age of 22. Inspired by the clarion call of Mahatma Gandhi, she threw herself headlong into the national liberation struggle. Judged in the backdrop of the contemporary social situation, she emerges as a true revolutionary.
Rama Devi’s active political involvement began with her participation at the Gaya Session of the Congress in 1922. Odisha made a significant contribution to the Salt Satyagraha that inspired millions to challenge the mightiest empire in history. How could a leader like Rama Devi stay out of it? She broke the salt law of the colonial rulers and was jailed. She played an active role in organising the padayatra of Gandhiji in 1934. Her work at the Bari Ashram along with her husband Gopabandhu Choudhury was one of the most successful experiments of Gandhian constructive engagement with the mariginalised sections of the society not only in the state but in the country as a whole. She was arrested on 9th august along with her husband during the Quit India Movement and was in jail for two years.
In post-independent times, she was involved in social service, relief work and the Bhoodan movement. She established an Ashram in 1950 in the tribal area of Tumburigeda in Koraput and served tribals in the 1951 famine. From Bari to Koraput, her service and activities speak of her uncompromising commitment to the downtrodden and the deprived. Humanity was the core value throughout her life. The death of her husband on 29th April in 1958 was a great shock to her as she had been all along with him in their personal, social and political life. As a Gandhian, she was thoroughly secular and worked for communal harmony during riots in Rourkela in 1964. She fought for the freedom of the nation and of the citizens. So, she could not digest the Emergency. She had no hesitation in resisting it. In doing so, she set a different standard from others for freedom and dignity. With her demise on 21st July in 1985, a career full of struggle, sacrifice, commitment, humanity, and service came to an end creating a void that is hard to fill.
Carrying forward her legacy, Rama Devi Women’s college has become a symbol of women’s empowerment today. The journey from Maa Rama Devi’s historic struggle to the imparting of education to women is a glorious saga of women’s empowerment. Women’s education is more relevant in a state like Odisha with multiple forms of inequalities based on caste, gender, language, region, poverty etc. We cannot achieve the goal of inclusive development without giving education to half our population. Higher education will not only provide opportunities to the girls to earn their livelihood, but also give them the confidence and strength to challenge the hegemony of an oppressive patriarchy. This will not only be in their interest but in the interest of the entire society. Education will help the girls in defending their freedom and ultimately the freedoms of all. Each of us has a stake in education of our girls. And an institution like Rama Devi Women’s College has a decisive role to play in this regard. The golden Jubilee Celebrations today will definitely take it to new heights.
- The author belongs to the Department of Political Science of Rama Devi Women’s College