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A bit about the history of Meerabai Campus, DSEU

September 14, 2021

Michael Crichton wrote that not knowing history of a place is as good as not knowing ‘anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree’ and so a few years back I began my search for those precious bits about the past of Meerabai Institute of Technology as it was called before DSEU (Delhi Skill and Entrepreneurship University) decided to turn it into Meerabai Campus in 2021. The search led me to fascinating and revelatory discussions with a few stalwarts who have been associated with this place. One of these is Mrs Veena Jaitley, a former faculty here and a good friend. She is now leading a blessed retired life but had herself been a student of one of the initial batches of Electronics and Communications Engineering and while retelling a few stories she remarked, ‘Quite a few faculty here have been students of this college that was earlier a Polytechnic with the DTTE or the Directorate of Training and Technical Education under the Government of Delhi’.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan – 02 October 2019. Main building in the background

Founder’s Day

We have just celebrated the 59th anniversary of this institute on 10 September 2021 which makes it clear that the birth of this wonderful place happened on 10 September 1962. We celebrate this day as our Founder’s Day. The objective then was to train young women in technology and its practical nuances so that they could be independent and meet the needs of the technical manpower in the state.  Since the polytechnic was only for women it was aptly named Women’s Polytechnic which continued till 1994 when it was renamed Meerabai Polytechnic.

A humble start

I wanted to know if the polytechnic started functioning in the present building and was informed that the beginning was comfortable but not as expansive as the current one as it functioned in a building housing the Dayal Singh Library on Rouse Avenue (now known as Deen Dayal Uppadhayay Marg) near ITO crossing. The founder principal Ms B. Tara Bai of the Institute was one of the four persons who took the initiative and had a pivotal role in establishing the institute.

Women’s Polytechnic in the early years began with just four courses: Commercial Arts (now Applied Arts), Interior Decoration (now Interior Design), Architectural Assistantship, and Medical Lab Technology. Two rooms of the library building were graciously earmarked for institute activities. Commercial Arts and Interior Design classes were started in one of the buildings on Curzon Road (now known as Kasturba Gandhi Marg). Classes for Medical Lab Technology were then held in Kapoor Hospital in Patel Nagar (now the well-known B L Kapoor Hospital). Tables of Dayal Singh library doubled up being used as drafting tables for Architecture Assistantship classes.

A single table in one corner of the library was designated as the office of the Institute.  There were no specific forms and procedures for admission to the courses in the initial couple of years. Anyone willing to take admission simply had to reach out, fill, and submit an application. As there was no formal publicity for the institute at that time, people got to know about it only by word of mouth… and I am sure the whispers were flattering enough. In each department only around 10-15 girls took admission in the year of setting-up.

A few years later

The involved approach of the faculty then led to an increased rush by potential students and the admission criteria soon adopted admission-on-merit that went on with relevant tweaks until 2005. As the number of students had increased manifold by then, a Common Entrance Test came into existence. This was later transformed into a centralised online admission process.

Department of Electronics

It was in 1963 that Electronics (now Electronics and Communications) Department was added. By this time, the polytechnic had shifted to a building near Kashmiri Gate in 1964. This was an old sort of building like the ones one can find in Chandni Chowk. There were rooms on four sides and a courtyard in the middle. I am told that there were two big trees in the courtyard with circular platforms erected around these. These platforms were used by the girls as the stage for the cultural functions. What a lovely place for incisive discussions on all issues of those times!

For those who are familiar with what Delhi was in those times, a journey on the ring road would lead to a red stone gate after Yamuna Bazar near IGIT stand. The old yellow building adjacent to this gate was our old Women’s Polytechnic. Delhi College of Engineering was right in front of this building at that time and when Delhi College of Engineering shifted to its new premises, IGIT began its operations there. 

The only large hall in the building became the venue for our daily morning assembly. All staff members and students assembled there and after a small prayer session would go to their respective classrooms after wishing each other.  This assembly gave all students an opportunity to interact with those from other departments as well and as a result there was a lot of inter-department interaction that was ever helpful.

Being a small polytechnic having only a few courses with a limited number of students, it was customary to have a common Fresher’s and Farewell parties with lunch arranged for all.

Interesting tales from the past

After remaining in that building at Kashmiri Gate for about 10 yrs, the institute shifted to its own present building in 1974. Veena Jaitley told me that a havan on a massive scale was performed on the ground floor in the PTI room followed by Bhajan Kirtan and all staff and students participated in it enthusiastically. Lunch was served to all after the inaugural puja.

The area where we are now is densely populated but this was not the case in 1974. The constructions were scarce and market proliferation was low… but the redeeming feature is that the land-scape around was more like a mini jungle just out-of-reach of diversions that could have disturbed a focus on studies. For the convenience of the students a mini stationery shop was opened inside the building as there was none nearby. As there was hardly any bus service to this place, students and staff had to walk down to the Ashram Chowk to access their preferred choice of a transport. Some of the old-timers recollect that this stretch was quiet and lonesome, and the staff and students were sometimes scared to walk alone and usually moved in small groups.

A few staff members then took the initiative and approached the DTC office to start a few special buses on different routes for students and staff. This was the beginning of college specials on a select few routes. These buses then operated according to the Polytechnic timings which were from 9 am to 4.10 pm on weekdays. Saturday, being a half-day then, Ritz and Minerva cinemas that were located nearby used to be full of students and staff on Saturdays. It was in late nineties that the college timings were changed to 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday was declared a weekly offday.

Residential Campus and other buildings

The residential campus of polytechnic and the hostel building were functional in 1978.  Even by this time, the development that is so obvious now, was absent and there were large tracts of empty spaces and the wild growth around the Yamuna. Some old residents recollect sighting snakes on the roads, inside houses, and even in the hostel premises. However, with the passage of time, some more constructions happened and a sprinkling of residential houses, shops, and a few government offices came up and the area became livelier. The phase of being on the outskirts of civilization was finally over!

The courses that we began with

Library Science and Secretarial Practice Departments

The Library Science and Secretarial Practice departments also began while being in the earlier Kashmiri Gate building.

Secretarial Practice is the old name of Modern Office Practice. It was then a two-year course that evolved into a three-year course. Library Science is now known as Library Information Science.

For quite a few years all these courses were running on an annual pattern that was anyway the norm but then gradually all courses have shifted to a more learning-friendly semester pattern.

Cosmetology and Pharmacy Departments

Beauty Culture that is now the Cosmetology and Health department and Pharmacy department were started after the college had shifted to the present building.

Fashion Shows and other activities in the college

Cultural activities like inter-department drama and debate competitions were more academic in nature. Top position holders in inter-department competitions were sent for Inter-Polytechnic competitions. As is the norm these days, inter-department Fancy Dress competition and Fashion Shows were popular and some staff members also participated. The entire college used to be involved and this trend continues… it must be mentioned that the fashion show of the institute was rather well-known for its creative influences. The staff and students from other polytechnics admired (and possibly envied) these programs though they all looked forward to being invited year after year. Our Miss Polytechnic contest was first held in 1967 and Miss Neelam Joseph of the Commercial Arts Department was the first to win the title.

A picture from 2018. Cultural Programme — Miss MBIT

Those were times when all the cultural functions were held in a shamiana erected for the function. It was only later when the student number increased that the practice of booking a hall started.

It was only when the examination pattern shifted from annual to semester that other activities based on individual talents like solo dance, flower decoration, Mehndi, Rangoli, and Alpana etc were introduced.

The hostel – a page from our history

Our hostel building was constructed and became operational in 1978. By the way, this was the only hostel for girl students in Delhi for students admitted in government institutes. It was, therefore, open to girl students of Delhi College of Engineering, College of Art, and from other polytechnics too. Later when other institutes had their own hostels, only girl students of our Polytechnics were permitted to stay.

We know how the telecom system was in the decades past and we were no exception. As there was no telephone facility around, a single coin-operated public phone was provided at the gate.  Students had to carry coins and go to the phone booth to call their families or had to wait there at the pre-decided hour for return calls from them.

The Hostel mess was run as a co-operative by the students.  Formation of a hostel committee was encouraged and weekly duties were given to students to look after the mess decision-making which was actually a great learning experience for them. As hostel activities expanded, a defined mess contract was accorded after calling tenders.

A short-note on our leadership in the past

Mrs. B. Tara Bai was the founder Principal of the Institute and continued from 1962 to 1967. Miss M. Y. Sule was her successor and remained Principal for almost 26 years from 1967-1994.  Both are not alive now and we are indebted to their tireless efforts to create the foundation for an institute that has done a lot to give the girl child an education that is infused with skills and an entrepreneurial spirit.

List of principals of this institution:

1.       Mrs. B. Tara Bai – 10.09.1962 to 08.09.1967

2.       Miss M.Y. Sule – 09.09.1967 to 31.10.1994

3.       Mrs. Shanti Goel – 01.11.1994 to 31.08.1997

4.       Miss V.K. Malhotra – 01.09.1997 to 31.10.2000

5.       Mrs. Rita Darbari – 01.11.2000 to 30.09.2005

6.       Sh. Inderjeet Garg – 01.10.2005 to 31.01.2006

7.       Mrs. Nirupama Gupta – 01.02.2006 to 05.12.2010

8.       Dr. Dony Toulte – 06.12.2010 to 06.01.2019

9.       Dr Sangita Passey – 07.01.2019 – Till date

Yet another interesting snippet from our past

The present generation may be unaware that for some time, a second polytechnic also functioned from our premises. When Kasturba Polytechnic for Women came into being, its classes were held in this building though only for around 6 years till it shifted to its own building at Pitampura in 1992.

Change of names

As mentioned earlier, this institute remained to be known as Women’s Polytechnic from 1962 – 1994 for 32 yrs and most of our old students still remember it as Women’s Polytechnic. However, in 1994 our name was changed to Meera Bai Polytechnic until 2010, that is, for 16 years.

However, in 2010, on introduction of a BBA course which is a degree course affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, the Polytechnic was renamed Meera Bai Institute of Technology. Thus, we have always been a known entity in the world of meaningful education for girls.

Proud of our alumni

Our students have made us feel all chuffed up wherever they have gone… and they have made a name for themselves in their relevant industry or even become successful entrepreneurs. A few are working in other countries also. They are all well-placed and are happy for being a part of this institute.

I will urge every new student to read this post and know that they must add to the glory that we are known for. This short article is obviously simply a short note on the history of this institute and contains ‘imperfections of memory (as they) meet the inadequacies of documentation’, to quote Julian Barnes.

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Founders Day 2021 – Meerabai, DSEU Maharani Bagh Campus
DSEU – Crafting Excellence
Founders Day – 2021 is an year of celebrations with masks on. Students were missed

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Sangita Passey
September 2021

From → Review Point

2 Comments
  1. Archana Bhatnagar permalink

    Very nicely penned by Dr. Passey. I am proud to be associated with the institute as student 1969-72 and Lecturer through UPSC 1977-2016 in the deptt. Of Applied Art. May there be new success and achievements to rejoice.
    Best Wishes
    Archana Bhatnagar

  2. SHAHEEDA BEGUM QURESHI permalink

    About Training and Placement cell

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