University of Dundee launches scholarship in honour of Indian student who helped poor in city

He was the student who started life in the Punjab more than 120 years ago and ended up having a street in Dundee named in his honour after serving as a town councillor in the city.

Jainti Dass Saggar among contemporaries at the University.

Now Jainti Dass Saggar of Saggar Street fame is to have a new scholarship launched in his memory.

Born in Deharru, Punjab in 1898, Dr Saggar undertook a 26-day sea journey to study medicine at University College Dundee (forerunner of the University of Dundee), arriving in the city in 1919, 100 years ago.

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Graduating in 1923, Dr Saggar became a local GP. In 1931, he married a Dundonian woman, Jean Quinn, and they had two daughters, Sheila and Kamala.

Dr Saggar served on the boards of various education and welfare bodies and was elected town councillor in 1936, serving Dundee as a Labour councillor for 18 years until his death in 1954.

His many contributions to social and political life are evident from his inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Dr Saggar remained connected with his Indian culture through his involvement over many years with Friends of India and with Indian Famine Relief. The £5,000 scholarship will be awarded alongside one of the University of Dundee’s existing Global Excellence Scholarships to an Indian domiciled candidate who shows remarkable potential to study an undergraduate degree starting in 2020.

Wendy Alexander, vice-principal (international) at the University, said: “Dr Saggar was a truly inspirational character who worked to improve the quality of school meals well ahead of his time.

“He also helped open a psychiatric clinic for early mental health treatment and argued for the provision of 20 communal canteens for Dundee’s poor. He was a true example of a global citizen, who chose to study, live and improve the city he came to. With this new scholarship, we hope his story inspires the next generation of Dundee students.”

Dr Saggar’s daughter Kamala, and her husband Dr John Stewart, visited the University earlier this year to learn more about his early years of study and to find out what current Indian students thought of the institution today. Nick Hopkins, Professor of Psychology at Dundee who welcomed the couple to the campus, said: “Jainti Dass Saggar was just one of 25 international students to study at University College Dundee at the time. He was an excellent student, a keen cricket and hockey player and a singer of some ability.

“He embraced Dundee and in turn was so welcomed that it is no wonder that upon his death, the then Lord Provost of Dundee, William Hughes, said ‘he came to Dundee from halfway across the world, but no son of Dundee had greater love for its people or worked harder in their interest’. His palpable contribution to the city is a story that transcends generations and borders.”

Decisions on the recipient of the Jainti Dass Saggar Scholarship will be made on applications received before 30 April 2020.