The Presi Files: An Interview with Manish Bhattacharya

Professor Manish Bhattacharya was at the helm of Gymkhana, IIT Kharagpur for a period of six years. Very charismatic in his personality, he was instrumental in bringing about several changes, and had to face several challenges when it came to issues like Illu, OP and elections. His love for sports also comes across very strongly in this interview. Have a read!



TSA: You have been the TSG President for the last 6 years. What were the major challenges you faced during this time?

MB: Well, the last 6 years didn’t pass without a fair share of chaotic happenings, particularly during the Illumination festival. There was one time when Patel and Nehru behaved like sworn enemies and did not allow people from the other hall to enter its own. A similar thing happened during another Diwali between RK and RP, when they threatened each other with hockey sticks. At such times, it becomes very difficult for the administration to physically control the students.


TSA: Any major infrastructural changes that have been brought about in your tenure?

MB: When I became the President, there was no proper turf and wickets for playing cricket, nor was there any synthetic tennis court. These facilities have been installed now. Also, the lights in the Tata Sports Complex and other football fields have been augmented. We also have a new dressing room in TSC and 1 extra volleyball and basketball court. And of course, the most noticeable change has been the refurbishment of the Gymkhana.


TSA: What is your opinion of OP?

MB: My personal opinion is that days have changed. Largely, students don’t like it. You tell me, students wearing formals and sitting like idiots, whom does it benefit? With Professor Goswami and Professor [Ashok] Bhattacharya, I had formed a unique partnership of sorts in curbing OP.


TSA: What do you think about the measures that have been adopted over the years by the institute regarding OP?

MB: You see, it is virtually impossible to control OP. Students have to understand themselves that it doesn’t help anyone. We don’t want the hall participation to stop or reduce. We have always asked for a list of events along with dates for the hall to conduct trials. The point is that you should not force anyone to do or participate in something. This forcing can land students in serious trouble – this is something people should understand.


TSA: Coming to extra-curricular activities, what do you think of the several new societies in Kharagpur?

MB: The number of societies has increased massively. The problem is that the work of several societies is overlapping. Take the example of Gopali Youth Welfare Society, a body which has done excellent work over the past few months. But just the other day, I saw a poster of a new society proclaiming to do similar work. Few students come together and form a group, and then sometimes go on to even represent IIT. There is no regulation of these societies, no financial accountability either. A proper framework with rules and regulations needs to be evolved regarding new societies.


TSA: Your opinion on Inter-halls and how they benefit/detriment inter IITs, when we talk about sports?

MB: Statistically speaking, since we are the largest IIT, our pool of talent for the inter-IIT should be better and we should be getting better results than what we are achieving now. In this regard, I believe that allowing inter-IIT players to play for their respective halls is affecting their commitment to inter-IIT. Such a scenario is not uncommon where a player gives his best shot for the interhall competition and when it comes to inter-IIT practice, shirks and does not show enough commitment. It is the students themselves who have to come out with a solution to this problem. If you ask me, I would say remove inter-halls altogether and enhance the open-IIT structure.


TSA: Have any changes in the election procedure been brought about in the past few years?

MB: The major change is of course the introduction of the online voting system by eliminating the erstwhile ballot boxes. The positive upshot is that the Gymkhana officials themselves need not be so heavily involved in the voting process.


TSA: What do you think about independent candidates? Also are you open to the possibility of having two VPs, since the work is so much?

MB: I believe there should be only one Vice President. 2 VPs will cause them to interfere with the workings of one another. But I do support the premise that independent candidates should be allowed to stand. This will avoid considerable nepotism and incidents such as the one which forced all the votes from LBS hall to be cancelled last year.


TSA: The current system of SOP during elections leaves a lot to be desired. What do you think of it?

MB: Earlier, it used to so happen that the VP candidates would stand in the round grassy area in front of the main building with people all around him, who would shout out random questions for him to tackle. But that is not possible now due to the burgeoning student population. However, currently we have a system where any spectator in the basketball court can indirectly ask a question to the candidate by routing it through his representative.


TSA: Any regret from your tenure, and message to students?

MB: I have no regret from my tenure. As a message, I would like to say – ‘I have really enjoyed working with the students. Sometimes I may have been a bit too harsh, but that was because the situation demanded and no one should take it personally.’

1 Comment

  1. Manish Bhattacharjee says:

    Answer to OP question: It is not Prof. Ashok Bhattacharyya, it should be Prof. Souvik Bhattacharyya. Also, I told that, three of us worked together. Please correct this

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