The Bapuji Educational Association's efforts over four decades have transformed Davangere, in Karnataka, into a major centre of education.
THE Bapuji Educational Association (BEA) was founded in July 1958 to take over a government college at Davangere, 260 kilometres north of Bangalore. Today, 44 years on, the BEA manages as many as 29 educational institutions ranging from kindergartens to professional colleges offering post-graduate courses. The Association runs 11 hostels for their students three for boys and eight for girls.
The BEA's institutions together have more than 20,000 students (of whom 4,000 are boarders). The institutions are spread over 250 acres in and around Davangere city. Currently, the only educational institutions that the Association has outside Davangere are the Smt. Halamma Shamanur Shivappa Nursery, Primary and High School at Harihar and the Bapuji High School at Kunibelakere, 18 km and 22 km respectively from Davangere.
According to BEA Registrar, Prof. K. Shadakshariyappa, the Association was started in response to the need for institutions of higher education in the region. Although Davangere is situated in the heart of Karnataka, prior to the 1960s the region lacked quality educational facilities. Students had to go either to Hubli-Dharwad or further afield to Bangalore. Matters came to a head in 1957, when Davangere was deprived of its only government first grade college, which was started in 1947. This was because the intermediate college at nearby Chitradurga, a district headquarters town, was upgraded to a full-fledged degree college. (Under the regulations of the day, two government colleges could not be allowed to function in the same district.)
Public appeals to the Karnataka government to upgrade Davangere's junior college fell on deaf ears. This prompted eight freedom fighters from Davangere Dharmaprakasha R. Maddurayappa (a jeweller), G. Veerappa (an advocate), Kassala Srinivas Setty (a merchant), Bondade Hanumantha Rao (an advocate), Mundasada Veerabhadrappa (a merchant), Sindhe Hanumantha Rao (a Municipal Councillor), Belludi Sivasangappa (a merchant) and A.H. Shivananda Swamy (a Muncipal Councillor) to form the Bapuji Educational Association, Davangere. They petitioned the government to allow the fledgling association to take over the government intermediate college and upgrade it to a `first grade' institute that would offer degree courses.
The BEA was established "for the advancement of education in Karnataka State in particular and elsewhere in general in the fields of art, fine arts, science, commerce, education, medicine, dental sciences, engineering, nursing, management, pharmacy, humanities, law and other allied educational institutions, to establish and manage hospitals and charitable institutions for the benefit of society, and also to donate for national causes in times of need". The BEA seeks to "organise and mould public opinion on matters of educational importance".
While the BEA's Memorandum of Rules and Regulations were registered initially with the Registrar of Societies under the Mysore Societies Registration Act of 1904, subsequent amendments to the Rules and Regulations (in 1977 and 2000) were registered by the Registrar of Societies, Karnataka.
The general body consists of five classes of members patrons, donors, life members, ordinary members and fellow members. The general body elects by proportional voting a 16-member governing council, which has a democratically elected president, not more than three vice-presidents, a secretary, a joint secretary and a treasurer. The governing council is empowered to frame bylaws for the management of the BEA's institutions. It manages the affairs of the BEA, appoints the heads of the institutions, fixes the staff pattern, controls assets, and constitutes a managing committee from among its members who number around 160.
The nine-member managing committee is responsible partly for the administration of the various BEA institutions. It can borrow money with or without security on behalf of the Association and deals with the promotions and transfers of the BEA's 3,000-odd employees. The president is the chief authority of the Association and presides over all meetings of the managing committee, the governing council and the general body. The secretary is the chief executive and exercises full administrative control over the Association's activities. All the office-bearers serve three-year terms.
Although the BEA has become synonymous with education in Davangere, it has not rested on its laurels. Said BEA president Kassal S. Vittal: "We have been spending crores of rupees on establishing and running well-equipped, state-of-the-art libraries and laboratories in all our educational institutions. And despite the fact that we are now allowed to fill up (in the management quota) only a small percentage of the seats in our professional colleges, our Association has not fallen back in spending huge amounts of money for the development of all our colleges. This has been possible in large measure owing to the active support of Davangere's philanthropists."
According to Vittal, the Association has kept pace with the requirements of the students. "We have to be pragmatic. After the completion of their studies students need jobs. Keeping this in mind, we have established a placement centre in Bangalore, which helps students secure jobs," he said. A.C. Jayanna, BEA treasurer said: "The aim of our Association is to impart education to students of Davangere as well as those from the rural areas surrounding it." However, there was a fair mix of students from States spread across India and a sprinkling of foreign students as well, he said.
According to Jayanna, recent policies of the State government, Supreme Court orders and the mushrooming of professional colleges have reduced student intake drastically, resulting in lower revenues for the Association. He said: "This has especially affected admissions to the engineering college and the polytechnic. The government has also fixed high fees for payment seats and abnormally low fees for merit seats. It has put a financial burden on us. The government should consider increasing the fees for merit seats and decreasing the fees of payment seats so as to ensure that private managements running professional courses can continue to do so."
According to Jayanna, the ever-increasing financial burden on the Association prompted it to seek State government aid for its polytechnic, law, junior, and B.Ed colleges. Jayanna said that the BEA's income and expenditure in the last financial year were around Rs.70 crores. "Among our assets are 37,066 square feet of building space, which is worth around Rs.223 crores, and vacant land to the extent of almost 200 acres," he said.
The BEA's collegiate institutes, which were affiliated to Mysore University, are now affiliated to Kuvempu University, which is running a `Post Graduate (PG) Centre' at Davangere with the cooperation of the Association. The entire campus and building of the PG Centre of the University was constructed by the BEA and handed over to the university. Members of the Association hope that this is would be yet another step towards Davangere being granted its own university or the BEA securing deemed university status. Said Shadakshariyappa: "We are prepared to give everything to start a university here. We have in our midst a large number of patrons/donors to establish chairs for various subjects. Our secretary, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, has himself donated 45 gold medals for meritorious students in our colleges."
According to Shadakshariyappa, in recent years the Association has broadened its objectives to include "services to society in any field". The Association, which manages two hospitals at Davangere, plans to start a super-speciality hospital either in Bangalore or in Davangere, besides a cancer hospital, which is being built in Davangere. Work on a 100-bed hospital at Chennagiri (45 km from Davangere) and a 750-bed hospital in Davangere, to be called the Shamanur Shivashankarappa Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, is in progress. The Association has built an impressive 1,000-seat auditorium.
With most of its once-famous textile spinning and weaving mills having been shut down, Davangere may have lost its tag as the `Manchester of Karnataka'. But the exponential growth of the BEA's educational institutions has ensured that Davengere is still a place to reckon with.