Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday directed the State Public Works Department (PWD) to find an alternate route for the proposed new road in Batala instead of cutting through the heritage Baring Union Christian College building.
Taking note of the protests by students and local residents over the PWD proposal to construct a road through the playground of the institution, set up more than 140 years ago as Baring School, on April 1, 1878, the Chief Minister made it clear that the heritage building would not be allowed to be spoilt in any manner.
The building, which had also served as the summer palace of Maharaja Sher Singh, was an iconic structure, with the minority institution continuing to groom many important personalities over the decades, Captain Amarinder pointed out. It was not in the interest of the people of the region to allow a road to run through the college playground, he said, adding that the purpose of having a new road to serve the region could easily be met by constructing it along an alternate route.
The Chief Minister said his government was totally committed to protecting the interests of all the people, including the minorities, and would not undertake any initiative that would damage those interests. He directed the PWD to take into account the historic importance of buildings etc before initiating any infrastructural development plans in future.
It may be noted that the Batala Boys Boarding School had started classes in the palace of Late Maharaja Sher Singh, called the Anarkali. Recorded history shows that the palace gradually transformed into a school, with dormitories, classrooms and Chapel. This marked the beginning of the establishment of western education in Batala town and tehsil, making the institution’s building an important landmark not just Batala but for Punjab.
The transition in the development of Baring High School to Baring Union Christian College was made during 1934-1948. The college officially came into existence on June 29, 1944, with about 75 students predominantly from Hindu, Muslim and Sikh background. At the time of India’s partition, Baring College, which was then the only Christian college in East Punjab, came to Punjab.