| The Agarpara estate where Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission of Barrackpore will open an institute of management and technology. Picture by Amit Datta
Ornithologist Satya Churn Law’s aviary at Agarpara, which till recently was like the palace in which Sleeping Beauty lay for years in suspended animation, is being turned, for now, into an institute of management and technology by the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission of Barrackpore.
Swami Nityananda, founder of Vivekananda Math and general secretary of the Mission, says a 30-bigha plot on which stands what used to be the aviary, as well as a large building with a covered area of 16,000 sq ft, was acquired on March 1 for Rs 3.65 crore. The “spiritual opening” of the institute was on March 5, which also happens to be the birth anniversary of Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
Swami Nityananda says the Mission had planned to establish Vivekananda National University there, but the proposal was turned down by the state government on the plea that the terms “national” and “university” cannot be used.
However, the education secretary of the human resources development ministry of the Union government has said that the Mission can open an institute that can later be developed into a (de novo deemed) university. The proposed Senate of the institute will enjoy the power to award degrees if the University Grants Commission accords it the status of a de novo university.
The steering committee of the institute, chaired by General Shankar Roychowdhury (retd), has decided that it will have two wings. The rural vocational institute will be based at Paschim Amarpur, in Hooghly district, and Gen. Rowchowdhury has contributed Rs 15 lakh for it from a member of Parliament’s funds. Kuldip Nayar has contributed Rs 10 lakh from the same fund for its research wing, Vivekananda Institute of Rural Technology at Jayrambati.
Students of South Point School have donated Rs 10.66 lakh for the urban wing, that is the proposed management and technology institute, and the M.P. Birla Foundation has contributed a matching grant. The Mission is also trying to raise funds by selling coupons of denominations of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100 in educational institutions.
This institute, to be named Gopalkunj, where management and computer science will be taught for now, will be affiliated to the Technology University of the state government, and is expected to open in mid-May. Four subjects will be taught and 60 students admitted to each. Study of India will be imperative here. The cost of giving shape to the proposed (de novo deemed) university will be around Rs 30 crore.
Conservationists will be delighted to learn that the building in Satya Churn Law’s aviary will house the institute and it is under repair now. It was built on Barrackpore Trunk Road in 1927-28. The pergolas for the birds were reminiscent of the enclosures Wajid Ali Shah had built in Metiabruz for his zoo. The exotic trees and plants Law had planted still luxuriate in the grounds. Many of the birds were caught in the Himalayas. Law had a home in Darjeeling.
Law died in 1983 and a year before his death vandals had removed the meshing from the cages, stripped the floors of marble and had wreaked havoc in the garden.
Both the garden and the building were under lock and key for nearly two decades, and the manicured lawns where Law invited dignitaries and the likes of C.V.Raman, Jagadish Chandra Bose and P.C. Roy, were knee-deep in weeds. Huge trees had grown on the roof of the building. Their roots had engulfed the interiors.
Now, all the filth has been removed and repairs are on full swing. The stained glass roof of the atrium above the staircase stands revealed. The institute is expected to open by the middle of May.