An interview with the current VP on his experiences at the highest student post in the Institute.
TSA: Election Season has begun and your tenure has all but come to an end. So, has it been a satisfying experience for you?
VP: Satisfying, not completely. Some of my ideas could not be implemented due to various reasons. I would have been satisfied if I had finished implementing all my proposals.
TSA: You said you couldn’t implement some of your proposals. We’re sure a lot of groundwork must have gone into each proposal that you made as a candidate. What then, do you think were the major hurdles which prevented you from implementing them?
VP: Well, even at the outset of my term, one of my proposals fell flat. And unfortunately I would attribute it to a lack of funda during the time, which I understood later when I started working. I had planned to get sponsored Industrial projects for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. I figured that this proposal was actually infeasible. This was something that the Dean, SRIC could do. It was something entirely under control of the institute administration. Therefore, it had to be scrapped.
TSA: Was the proposal to tie-up with Big bazaar infeasible too?
VP: Not at all. That proposal was feasible enough; it was just that I couldn’t get time during my tenure to get that through. Actually, there are a lot of other aspects of students’ life in KGP. When I became the VP, I found out that I had to work on other domains as well. One most important domain was hostel management. I had not included any proposal in this field, but that is one domain that requires most work from the students’ administration.
TSA: But we are not aware of any work in this area. Was anything achieved in this regard?
VP: Yes. For starters, the HMC is going to buy one Roti maker machine for MMM hall of residence on a trial basis sometime during the end of March. If that works out well, the institute would install machines in all the halls. A single machine costs Rs.9 lakh and for all the halls, the costs come out to be 1.7 crore. Our HMC chairman Prof. Goswami is going to make a visit to IIT Delhi where the machine has already been installed. If he finds that it is working satisfactorily, he’ll procure a machine for us as well.
TSA: Was there any student involvement in the working of the HMC?
VP: Yes, there were three students. Apart from myself, there was the UG Representative Prabhat Kumar and a VP’s nominee Dileep Meena. Also, there were ad-hoc committees based on the agenda of the meeting. For example, if there was something related to mess, the committee consisted of these three students, Hall Presidents and G.Secs Mess of all halls. Prof. Goswami, the HMC chairman involved us in all the decision making and administration and we were part of all the bidding that was done in the HMC this year.
TSA: Is this the first time that this has happened?
VP: I am not sure but it might have happened last year as well. The Student representatives were there last year, but I do not know in what capacity they functioned.
TSA: Another of your proposals was to form an “Alternate Careers Group” under the TSG. How did that turn out?
VP: The idea remained the same but the methodology changed. Communiqué governors met me in July. They knew about this proposal. They mentioned that they had already conducted one workshop on Actuarial Science and on IAS and they were willing to take up FRM and CFA as well this year. For the finance related aspect, we formed a student team outside the Gymkhana, for which we didn’t provide funding. So Finance cell was made, and as far as I know nothing concrete has come up.
TSA: Communiqué is an already existing student body. These IAS and Actuaries workshops took place last year also. But CFA and FRM workshops didn’t happen, this year or the last.
VP: Yes, they have not conducted it this year also. I entrusted the responsibility to them and I am sure there must have been some problem if it hasn’t been conducted so far.
TSA: One of your proposals was to introduce changes to improve placements. Were you able to follow through with this?
VP: Well, I had planned to conduct mock tests and mock GD/PI sessions to help students during placements but we couldn’t get the funding for this. Finally, I got in touch with Communiqué again. And we did conduct such a workshop but the turnout was very poor. So we only conducted this at a very miniscule level with budget constraints.
During my candidature, I had contacted companies like Greenhat Ventures which is a KGP startup. I had also talked to Prof.BK Mathur, the then TnP-in-charge. He told me that we needed a funding of atleast 3-4 lakh rupees to conduct such a workshop for 1300 students and it might be difficult to obtain. But when I talked to the Placement Committee members of last year, they told me that 3-4 lakhs should not be a problem if the workshops are good enough. So, I went ahead and made this proposal.
TSA: How did the idea of introducing department representatives turn out? Would you say it has been useful?
VP: I had initially meant to arrange representation for each department in the placement committee but that didn’t quite pan out. Eventually, collection and channelizing of information to us was the major work that they did. There are several professors who have very good industrial contacts. They were able to collect those contacts and bring them to us. Students from departments which haven’t been having very good placements showed great interest – they came to us, asked us for reports, feedback and updates and it was very successful.
TSA: A very small percentage of the campus population knows about the Gymkhana website. Has anything been done to make it more functional?
VP: This URL has been active for the last two years. It’s not very functional because it’s just been two years. A new website, with many added features, was made sometime in Autumn Semester in Sep-Oct and since then it has been on a local server in a Beta Phase. We have still not got a permanent server. We have submitted the CD to Prof. Mathur who heads the Information Cell. He is in contact with the head, CIC. According to him, we should get a permanent server for this website in March itself, probably next week.
TSA: By keeping the website more active and functional, you can keep the campus more informed about your activities. Isn’t it the responsibility of the PR Chair [Anupam Singh] to make sure that all students are in the know?
VP: The PR Chair has been managing the Gymkhana website and he has also been helping me in several other areas which you probably don’t know.
TSA: Exactly, we would very much like to know. Why do you think the PR Chair is not very effective?
VP: Based on my experience and Arnav’s suggestion, we’ve decided to only publish information when it is complete and confirmed. For example, we are planning to include lighted boards in front of all the halls and on the 2.2 as well, something similar to what the gymkhana did for the courts last year. We are currently in talks with Prof. Goswami. Once we get the confirmation, that we are actually setting it up, once we get the quotation finalized through the HMC, we will let you know. We will put it up on DC, we will let The Scholars’ Avenue know and we will put it up on the Gymkhana notice board. Also, with regard to making information public, this point in fact came up during a HMC meeting, and it was decided that they will publish audit reports which will be made public and posted on all hall notice boards – this semester onwards.
Also, although the PR Chair is very sincere, he doesn’t have access to a lot of the information like I do.
TSA: Has anything new been done to rectify the Dell laptop chaos?
VP: There were 2 service camps – one in February just before the midsems and another on 5th – 6th March. All software related problems were looked into free of cost. All hardware related problems were recommended to vendors nearby for replacement at a subsidized cost. The Wizertech deal has been closed for now. I don’t know what the future VP has in mind for a laptop deal next year.
TSA: Can you elaborate on the Institute foreign exchange deal that you talked about earlier?
VP: This is being taken care of by the PR chair. He is in talks with 2 companies for providing Currency exchange and other benefits like traveler’s cheques for students and professors who will be going abroad. Thomas Cook is one of the companies we’re talking to. We expect this to come up by March end or the beginning of April.
TSA: Is there some work going on to improve the Institute ERP system?
VP: Work on the ERP system has been going on for the last two years. Prof. R.N.Banerjee, the chairman of the ERP committee called me at the beginning of this year and said he needed help from students for coding and such. I have formed 2 teams under me. One will be the implementation team and the other, the development team which has coders and programmers. The implementation team will work on Prof. Banerjee’s ideas and formulate the concepts for different modules in the ERP system. Some forthcoming modules are Hospital, Guesthouse booking for students, TSG, Library, etc.
TSA: How has the functioning of the Hospital Management Committee and other committees been?
VP: Three major committees have been active this year.
The Hospital Management Committee has been working smoothly under Prof. Analava Mitra’s Guidance.
The Suggestion Management Committee was a brainchild of the current Director. There were online portals and any stake holder is allowed to provide suggestions. We receive hundreds of suggestions each month. We discuss these suggestions and decide what is to be done with them. Some suggestions are sent to the respective offices. For instance, some small construction related suggestion will be sent to the civil works section. And if there are some suggestions which can be taken up by the institute as a new initiative, then they are invited for a presentation in front of the committee at a later date. If approved, then appropriate action is taken.
The Academic review committee is to obtain feedback from students on academics of each dept. Every Suggestion made by the students is being looked into.
TSA: Any other major achievements during your tenure that you would like to add?
VP: The Counseling centre has started functioning. I am also very happy that we were able to host Illumination and Rangoli this year. We saw Haldiram Bhujiawala coming to Kgp. The revival of the SPICMACAY chapter in the TSG which has been dormant for the last 3 years, with the spectacular concert of Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia. The CELC [Commercial Establishment Licensing Committee] and Food Monitoring Committees are now active.
TSG: What does the Food Monitoring Committee do?
VP: We called the owners of some restaurants and informed them about surprise checks and some guidelines to be followed. We also placed complaint boxes in eateries for customers to post suggestions which we could compile and show to the owner. A customer manual was given to the owners. We stressed on the hygiene aspect. Also they were asked to submit a menu with prices at CELC. The owner cannot increase these prices without permission and ratification from the CELC.
TSA: Anything you would like to pass on to the future VP?
VP: I would pass on the ideas in my head to the VP next year. To the new VP, I want to say that he is a link between the administration and students. He’s not just a student representative, but also one for the administration.