Interview with the Vice-President

As an eventful year in IIT Kharagpur approaches its end, so does Prateek Agarwal’s remarkable tenure at the helm of student activities. Excerpts from an interview with the vice president –

TSA: What has your experience with the administration been like?

VP: I would say the administration has been receptive to the demands of the student community. There are occasions though when they are a tad bureaucratic, but some persistence pays. That said, I’d like to thank Akshat (UG representative), Sagnik (PR chair of TSG), the Hall Presidents and SSMs for helping me out.

 

TSA: This year being the Diamond Jubilee year in IIT Kharagpur, what were your additional responsibilities?

VP: Most of the work for the Diamond Jubilee curtain raiser was done by the administration itself but an event as big as this cannot be organised without student support. A team was exclusively formed for the conduction of the Diamond Jubilee curtain raiser. The Inter-IIT sports meet was another responsibility, which again had a dedicated team. I supported the administration wherever I could.

 

TSA: Any major developmental plans in the pipeline?

VP: Vision 2020 is one, for which a team of external consultants has been hired to look into the administrative structure and suggest remedies so that administrative processes are streamlined, research output increases and students are happier. For instance, it was suggested professionals from related fields be employed run departments like TnP or HMC to reduce workload on professors as well as ensure greater efficiency.

2020 does not mean that KGP aims to achieve all this by the year 2020. Rather, it refers to the steps IIT Kharagpur needs to take to become one of the top 20 universities in the world in the next 20 years.

 

TSA: Any update on the new eateries on campus?

VP: Baskin Robbins was supposed to open a shop on campus by March 15. This is a franchisee, taken up by a local, and the delays have been all from his side. I have personally fought with them a number of times over this issue. Talks have also been initiated with Domino’s Pizza. We had initially approached Subway and Pizza Hut, but Subway did not enjoy a lot of popular support and the latter wasn’t really very interested. We should have a formal proposal from them soon. If all goes well, the final agreement with Domino’s will be signed by April.

 

 

On the Kgp electoral process:

TSA: Now that you’ve been through the entire election process, what do you think students expect from a VP? There’s a lot of effort that goes into drafting proposals, is that where the effort should be?

VP: Students expect the VP to be hard working, approachable and receptive to their problems. The proposals are important and should be such that they have a strong impact on the student community, once implemented.

 

TSA: Given the current pact system, how should students vote?

VP: Students should make it a point to interact with the candidates. Go through their proposals and carefully evaluate them. People should not blindly do what others tell them.

 

TSA: Do you feel that the pact system is harmful?

VP: I can’t comment as I myself have been elected through this system. However, this is a universal system, followed almost everywhere. If you feel that the pact system is bad, try proposing a better alternative. I’ve said this earlier – you cannot have a lot of students contesting for the same post. That said, individual candidates should not be discouraged so strongly from contesting.

 

 

On the Inter-IIT flop show:

TSA: About Inter-IIT, what would you say about the performance of our contingent? There was a lot of emphasis this year on early preparation, yet we finished sixth.

VP: The individual performance in most of the sports improved. The number of sports in which we reached the semi-final stage was greater. Teams were made to practice a lot more this time round. Unfortunately, the grounds were not made available to the teams at the right time, which hampered their practice schedules. Having hosted the Inter-IIT, we now have everything ready. So if the teams start practicing early next year and students are regular in the sessions, I can definitely see Kgp topping the charts. There is no dearth of talent here.

 

On implementing proposals:

TSA: Most of your predecessors and other Gymkhana post holders have not implemented the proposals they floated. Your thoughts?

VP: I’m sure every member tries hard to implement their proposals. But there is sometimes a lack of time. Even most of my proposals were implemented only recently. The motivation should be to provide something useful to the student community.

 

TSA: Most of your proposals require continuity in their implementation. How would you ensure that?

VP: Maintaining the TnP site should not be a problem, as only the job notification forms and placement brochure require updating. As far the grievance cell goes, a VP handles student concerns all the time. This will only ease the process and ensure there’s a team of students to support him. Also, I’ll be here for another year, to assist the next VP wherever required.

 

Regarding placements:

TSA: Given the wide-spread allegations of cheating during tests and faking on CVs, does the Placement Committee plan to start verification of CVs? Is there a punishment mechanism in place?

VP: Verification would certainly make the process more transparent, but cannot be ensured unless we freeze the CVs. Freezing CVs might turn out to be an unpopular decision, as students would then not be able to edit their profiles from August onwards.

This year, we did check some CVs on being tipped-off about discrepancies, but didn’t find anything objectionable. Consequently, no punishment was doled out to anyone.

 

TSA: With close to 2000 students expected to register for placements next year, is there a plan to increase the size of the Placement Committee from its current strength of 10?

VP:  Increasing the size of the Placement Committee will reduce the work load on the placement coordinators, but in no way will ensure more companies are called. Even this year, we managed the calling process comfortably. With more members in the team, co-ordination between the members and with the office too becomes a challenge.

Even if the size does increase, our strength won’t grow beyond 12, because the TnP cell doesn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate any more people.

 

TSA: Why not involve the department representatives as well in the process of inviting firms to campus?

VP: The department representatives played a very active role this year in spreading information and ensuring better turn-outs during the pre-placement talks. But, as in other IITs, the calling process is centralized to ensure co-ordination and prevent confusion in reaching out to firms open for multiple departments.

 

TSA: IIT Kharagpur had a phenomenally good Phase I this time. But on a percentage scale, even that hasn’t proved enough with roughly 40% remaining. With a greater challenge looming next year, how does one ensure a job per person?

VP: The only way is to get more companies to recruit. Steps which can be taken in this direction could include publishing advertisements in national dailies inviting companies for the placement season.

Last year, we’d hosted a total of 180 companies on campus. This time, we’ve already crossed 190 firms, with 20 more lined up, as of now. In Phase II, we especially do a lot of concentrated calling for department-specific companies. So, while a lot of work is being done, it is still very difficult to ensure one job per student.

 

Prateek’s Proposals

Remarks

The formation of a Grievance Cell, to look into and solve various complaints and grievances of students of IIT Kharagpur

  • A separate section was created on the TSG website in early March
  • Plans to involve student representatives, general    secretaries and members from the Student Welfare Group to address issues
  • An FAQ section will allay general concerns

To make the process of procuring a “No Dues Certificate” for final year students more convenient

  • Implemented for the Batch of ’11
  • Each department uploads details on ERP
  • Students can print a receipt and obtain their certificate from Academic Section after clearing their dues at SBI

To institute a students’ research fund which will be used to pay a stipend to students working on projects in Kharagpur in the summer or winter

  • Not implemented fully, partially modified
  • Students can use their own caution money (Rs 2000 pm for a maximum of 2 months)
  • No list of projects to be made available, however

To create a new and improved website for TnP, containing a portal through which both students and company representatives can upload necessary information

  • New TnP site is ready, expected to be launched before autumn ‘12
  • ERP  for TnP should be ready by March-end
  • Students needn’t submit CVs repeatedly; simply click to register or unregister for a firm
  • Companies will login to download CVs directly

To start a weekly e-mail system to inform students of the events and activities which will take place in the forthcoming week, and the results and reports of the events that took place the previous week

  • Implemented in collaboration with The Scholars’ Avenue, as The Online Avenue
  • A weekly frequency couldn’t be sustained so far, owing to operational difficulties and severe problems with the CIC servers

Proposals

Remarks

The formation of a Grievance Cell, to look into and solve various complaints and grievances of students of IIT Kharagpur

· A separate section was created on the TSG website in early March

· Plans to involve student representatives, general    secretaries and members from the Student Welfare Group to address issues

· An FAQ section will allay general concerns

To make the process of procuring a “No Dues Certificate” for final year students more convenient

· Implemented for the Batch of ’11

· Each department uploads details on ERP

· Students can print a receipt and obtain their certificate from Academic Section after clearing their dues at SBI

To institute a students’ research fund which will be used to pay a stipend to students working on projects in Kharagpur in the summer or winter

· Not implemented fully, partially modified

· Students can use their own caution money (Rs 2000 pm for a maximum of 2 months)

· No list of projects to be made available, however

To create a new and improved website for TnP, containing a portal through which both students and company representatives can upload necessary information

· New TnP site is ready, expected to be launched before autumn ‘12

· ERP  for TnP should be ready by March-end

· Students needn’t submit CVs repeatedly; simply click to register or unregister for a firm

· Companies will login to download CVs directly

To start a weekly e-mail system to inform students of the events and activities which will take place in the forthcoming week, and the results and reports of the events that took place the previous week

· Implemented in collaboration with The Scholars’ Avenue, as The Online Avenue

· A weekly frequency couldn’t be sustained so far, owing to operational difficulties and severe problems with the CIC servers

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