The forgotten history of the swadeshi Clock Tower in AU Visakhapatnam

In a world where everyone is in search of a fast track to success, in search of quick fixes and in search of a better tomorrow, we have nearly forgotten where we come from and the importance of preserving the roots. The same is the story of the JVD College of Science & Technology and its clock tower at Andhra University (AU), Visakhapatnam. Reminding us of how this esteemed university that is the pride of the city today was established and how this particular unit came into existence, Vijjeswarapu Edward Paul brings to you the story of JVD College of Science & Technology and its clock tower at AU, Visakhapatnam.

The Andhra University (AU) was initially established at Vijayawada (then known as Bezawada). It started functioning with the inaugural senate meeting held on 30 August 1926 in the Museum Hall of that town. The Governor of Madras, Lord Goschen was the Chancellor and Maharajah of Bobbili Swethachalapati Ranga Rao Bahadur was the Pro-Chancellor. Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy who was instrumental in getting a separate university for Telugu-speaking people was appointed as the founder Vice Chancellor and CDS Chetti was appointed as founder Registrar in April 1926.

After a long political battle for almost 3 years, the location of the university was decided to be at Visakhapatnam (then known as Vizagapatam). Shifting the University from Vijayawada to Visakhapatnam required an amendment to the Andhra University Act. Accordingly, on 5 April 1929, the Governor gave his assent paving the way for the shift. Waltair was chosen as the site for the University in Visakhapatnam. It started functioning on 5 September 1930 in a rented building known as Cecil Hotel which was located in the present south campus near the outgate area.

When the actual shifting of the university from Vijayawada to Visakhapatnam took place, Ramachandra Deo, Maharajah of Jeypore, Orissa was the Pro Chancellor and Rao Bahadur TS Tirumurthi was the acting Vice Chancellor. Later Dr Radhakrishnan assumed the office of Vice-Chancellor (VC) on 31st May 1931.

The actual academic and building activities of AU at Visakhapatnam started taking shape only after Dr Radhakrishnan took over as VC. He started the University College of Arts with Telugu and History honours. Classes were started on 1st July 1931 in Bobbili Hall (it was located where the present Grand Bay Hotel is). The Rajah of Bobbili, Ravu Swetachalapathi Ramakrishna Ranga Rao, the then Pro Chancellor, had lent this hall to the university till the new buildings were constructed. The College of Science and Technology initially with honours courses in physics and chemistry commenced on 4 July 1932 on the ground floor of the Cecil Hotel building.

About 53 acres of land including the Cecil Hotel building was acquired. Another piece of land of about 22.5 acres adjoining the Cecil Hotel site was also obtained to commence the required buildings for the University in 1931. Plans were drawn up for the construction of buildings. The services of L M Chitale an Architect were taken and a Calcutta-based construction company Britannia Building and Iron Company was engaged to construct the University College of Arts, University College of Science and Technology, hostel blocks, and quarters for the hostel warden and the powerhouse.

The foundation stone for the University College of Science was laid on 1 December 1931 by the then Governor of Madras and Chancellor of Andhra University George Frederick Stanley. As can be seen from the foundation plaque the college was named as University College of Science and Technology. Construction was completed in two years and the buildings were inaugurated on 8 December 1933 by the same Governor. But the inauguration plaque gives the name of the College as  Jeypore Vikarama Deo College of Science and Technology. To know what had taken place between Dec 1931 and Dec 1933 that lead to the change in the name of College, one has to look at the events that took place at far-flung Jeypore and Visakhapatnam.

Before the laying of the foundation stone for the University College of Science and Technology, some significant events took place in the distant Jeypore zamindary. The then Pro Chancellor of the University, Maharajah Sri Ramachandra Deo passed away on 20th

February 1931. There was no direct successor in the family. After some understanding and settlement in the family, Vikrama Deo Verma took over the Jeypore Zamindary in June 1931. After a year or two, Dr Radhakrishnan along with Alladi Krishna Swamy, the then Advocate General of Madras, mediated through O Pulla Reddy ICS, persuaded the new Rajah to donate to the University. The Rajah consented to donate liberally. To this effect he executed a bond agreeing to pay towards the recurring expenditure of the University College of Science and Technology, an annual contribution of ₹50,000 for the academic year 1933-34, ₹75,000 for the academic year 1934-35 and ₹1,00,000 from the next academic years till such time when he or his heirs might pay up a capital sum of ₹15,00,000. In grateful acknowledgement and recognition of this extremely generous offer of endowment, the university decided to rename the already functioning University College of Science and Technology in his honour as Jeypore Vikrama Deo College of Science and Technology.

The clock tower on the AU Visakhapatnam building seems to have been added after its opening at a cost of ₹30,000 and a clock was installed there. In 1936, Dr CR Reddy, the Vice Chancellor described the clock tower as the crown of university buildings in AU Visakhapatnam. He further added that it was a swadeshi crown, among all other imported clocks. The clock was manufactured under the guidance and supervision of Dr H Parameswaran, department of physics, Presidency College Madras at his laboratory. Dr CR Reddy thanked Dr Parameswaran for his contribution. Similarly, he thanked the education department, the government and the Presidency College for allowing him to use the laboratory for manufacturing the clock. To his credit, Dr Parameswaran has also manufactured another clock, with more unique features, a musical bell with electrical winding and installed on the reconstructed dome of Presidency College in 1940 on the occasion of its centenary celebrations.

Andhra University staff members say that the clock on JVD College in Visakhapatnam was in working condition until 2014. It was badly damaged during the Hudud Cyclone on 12 October 2014. It stopped working since then. Finding mechanics to run such an outdated mechanism is difficult. Getting the required spare parts is even more difficult. So maintaining such a clock is expensive and it has no utility value nowadays. But still, the clock has a heritage value which cannot be quantified in monetary terms. The display of this dead clock on its edifice blemishes its magnificence and its past glory.

The JVD College building in Visakhapatnam on which the clock stands, the crown of the university buildings, as was described by the founder Vice Chancellor is in urgent need of the attention of the authorities. The building is almost 90 years old and has already started showing signs of decay. The ceiling is peeling off and peeled-off chips are falling on the students’ gallery and in laboratories endangering the lives of the students and staff. The electrical wiring was made in 1933 with switchboards and their vintage switches are loosely hanging to the walls. The building needs immediate repairs. Any further delay may result in further damages resulting in escalating the cost of its repairs. A comprehensive plan is needed for the clock, its tower and the college building itself.

The clock will start ticking again if only the university authorities and the government take up restoration work of this clock tower at the JVD College building at AU Visakhapatnam at the earliest. If the local industries come forward to help the restoration with their CSR funds and also if the alumni, retired and working teaching staff of the university strive to raise necessary funds to help the restoration process. If all these institutions and members make a collective effort, the heritage building, the first building of the first University in the state, can be restored to its past glory and can make the clock start ticking again.

Compiled by: Vijjeswarpu Edward Paul.

Stay tuned to Yo! Vizag website and Instagram for more updates.

This post was last modified on 22/07/2022 1:42 pm

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