The Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) invited one of its most famous and powerful alumni, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who has also been the face of an unusual fund-raising drive from alumni, to campus on Thursday.
The alma mater expressed a wish to be declared an institute of excellence, the sauve minister, in return, urged the education fraternity to fulfill the needs of a growing class which he identified just below the middle class: the aspirational class.
“Our middle class today is huge, and it is expanding. Below the middle class you have a lot of people who struggle, who aspire. In this aspirational class, there is a hunger for education, for hard work,” said Jaitley. “As more and more aspirational people get up, we need a break from conventional thought”.
The finance minister, an undergraduate at SRCC in 1970-73, has backed an unusual experiment by SRCC since 2009. He has been the face of a fund-raising drive by the college from alumni, which has turned out generations of commerce and economics graduates. Among its famous alumni and contributors are Anshu Jain, chief of Duetsche Bank and just-declared judge Rohinton Nariman.
Though SRCC, just like other colleges of Delhi University, gets a grant from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, it has tapped into alumni funds to refurbish infrastructure. While this is a common practice followed by universities abroad, most colleges in India have yet to catch on.
Jaitley admitted that he has become the face of SRCC.
“I have become an integral part of SRCC branding, that is probably the biggest honour” said Jaitley, as a crowd of 2,000 students, gathered in the basketball stadium of the college, cheered.
The students said they were happy to be there, taking leadership lessons from someone who once sat in the same classrooms, albeit without air-conditioning, which has now been added with alumni funds.
“I want to hear an ex-SRCCite about his achievements. Because he is an alumnus, he shows you can reach such levels that you get recognized (for your work),” said Vartika Dhanuka, 18, who joined the highly sought-after college three weeks ago as an undergraduate.
SRCC courted controversy in early 2013 when it invited Narendra Modi, then yet-to-be-declared PM candidate, for a talk on campus, where Modi declared his aspirations for Delhi, besides appealing to a generation of “mouse charmers”. A delegation of students from Jawaharlal Nehru University or JNU had protested at the SRCC gates at that time. Modi was chief minister of Gujarat at the time of the 2002 riots, when mostly Muslims died.
SRCC students said Modi still spoke in their language “of jobs, of employment”. They said they were satisfied with his Prime Ministership.
Jaitley lead the students through a recollection of India’s growth which he said has dipped to 5% from 9%. His job, he said, is to get it back on track.
“It was very insightful, very interesting. He is a very intelligent man, and he has lived through Indian history,” said Tyler Garcia, 19, a student of Nottingham University who is here on an exchange-cum-internship programme.
Principal P C Jain said later he had hoped his college’s famous alumnus would come with the news that it was now an institute of excellence, which would give it greater scope of research.