Asiatic Society, Mumbai
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2019/ first woman president
For the first time in the 215-year history of the Asiatic Society, a woman has been appointed its president. Vispi Balaporia, 78, is an educationist who secured 107 out of 163 votes at the society’s election.
Balaporia has a long association with Asiatic, having served as vice-president and secretary. She is a former vice-principal of Jai Hind College and was a professor of English literature. At Asiatic, her rival in the fray was former Supreme Court Justice Sujata Manohar, who later withdrew her nomination. Balaporia’s other opponent, Dr Surendra Dhaktode, former principal of Siddharth College, secured 31 votes. Balaporia said, “My priorities will include seeking funds for the institute. A special review committee had recommended Rs 50 crore, of which we received Rs 5 crore. Another mission is to continue the digitization programme that was started before my tenure. We are already on the path to improving infrastructure with our new office, and are conserving old maps.” Balaporia’s tenure will last two years, after which she can seek re-election. The Asiatic Society, a learned society in the field of Asian studies, traces its origin to the Literary Society of Bombay, which first met in Mumbai in 1804, and was founded by Sir James Mackintosh. Like most institutes of its time, Asiatic was a male bastion. The first portrait of a woman in its gallery, of socialist writer Durga Bhagwat, was installed just six years ago.