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Lankapalli Bullayya (1918 - 1992): A visionary educationist


As the Director of Public Instruction (DPI), he was instrumental in bringing about reforms in school education. He mooted the idea of 10+2+3 system in Andhra Pradesh even before it was recommended by the Kothari Commission. Thus, he laid a strong foundation for development of education.

That was Lankapalli Bullayya, the first dalit to become the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University - or for that matter any university in the country. He sympathised with economically poor students and contributed for their welfare. He felt that reservations should be on the basis of financial backwardness and not otherwise.

Born in Guntur district, he had his school and college education in the same district. He used to walk for about 10 kilometres every day to his school from his village. He did his B.A. Honours from AU. He had a desire to go to London for doing his Ph.D. He even got admission into the London School of Economics. He met Babasaheb Ambedkar to seek his help in securing a fellowship. The latter, however, could not do anything about it and the desire remained a dream.

As the principal of the B.Ed. Training College, he grew over a period of time and when Andhra Pradesh came into being in 1956, he became the DPI and was given the responsibility of strengthening the education system right from the primary to the university-level.

In 1968, he was appointed AU Vice-Chancellor and continued in that position till 1974. Bullayya was instrumental in starting several innovative courses and departments like Human Genetics and Marine Biology.

Vigorous pursuit of academic, curricular and examination reforms (introduction of semester system), virtual abolition of external examinations and abolition of the detention system and continuous assessment marked his tenure. For the first time, some affiliated colleges were permitted to offer M.A. courses in select subjects and the M.Com. course. Private appearance for M.A. and M.Com were liberalised.

In 1962, when Bullayya was the VC, a general inspection committee under his chairmanship, visited all affiliated colleges to assess their progress and to know their requirements. During this period, the Departments of Education, Geography, Bio-Chemistry, Human Genetics and Physical Anthropology were started.

Six affiliated colleges were permitted to run PG departments in select subjects in pursuance of the policy of decentralisation. Coaching classes for Civil Services examination were started and the Continuing Education Scheme was introduced.

"The School of Correspondence Courses (which has been renamed as the School of Distance Education) was started by AU as a result of his efforts. He was an able administrator and maintained very good rapport both with the Centre and the State Government and used it for the betterment of the university," recalls the Director of the AU Academic Staff College, K.S. Chalam.

"The university buildings were badly damaged in the 1970 cyclone which hit Visakhapatnam. He got them photographed and took the snaps to the University Grants Commission authorities in New Delhi and sought grants for the repair of the buildings. The UGC granted funds which were utilised not only for undertaking repairs but also for constructing a few new buildings," he says.

His tenure as VC did not see any financial crisis. The university budget was always surplus during his term. The former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, wanted to appoint him as the UGC Vice-Chairman but he refused to take it up as he had aspired to become the Chairman.

The Bullayya College, named after him, was started in 1977. He started the Dr. V.S. Krishna Government College, and was more concerned about it than the college that was named after himself. He had settled in Hyderabad on the completion of his tenure as VC. "Whenever, I called on him on my visits to the twin cities, he used to ask about the progress being made by Dr. V.S. Krishna College," recalls Prof. Chalam.

"He was an able administrator and a visionary who could understand the problems of students and reasons for their unrest. He never allowed the problems to go out of hand," says the principal of Dr. Bullayya College, I. Parthasarathi.

A bust of this visionary educationist has been installed in the premises of the AU School of Distance Education.

B.M.G.

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