14th August ’06: Halls ka haal

In the light of the ever increasing in-take of students, the Scholars’ Avenue team caught up with HMC Chairman, Prof. H. N. Mishra to find out about the HMC’s plans and more.

SA: Keeping in mind the recent surge in the intake of students and given that the hostels are already packed to capacity, what plans does the HMC have in mind to tackle the congestion issue?

HNM: For the girls, there is a new hall, Rani Laxmibai Hall of Residence, for which the construction has been going on for a while now, and which is expected to be completed by December. We also plan to add another floor to MT Hall. For the boys, a 2000-strong capacity Hall named after Lal Bahadur Shastri is in the pipeline. Occupancy will be on twin sharing basis. We recently advertised in the newspapers for an architect to design and plan the construction. If everything goes as planned, the Hall should be ready by the end of July 2007.

SA: This year, the first year hall allotment was done by IITJEE registration numbers, which has led to regional segregation of students. Does this warrant any further action in the eyes of the HMC?

HNM:To be frank, we did not foresee this situation arising. All these years, the allotment has been random (we have special software for the purpose). Anyways, we’ve discussed this issue, and it’s been decided that since the students are still settling down, they won’t be asked to shift right away. However, the room shifting can be conveniently done during the winter break. Students will be asked to vacate their rooms, and fresh allotments will be made.

SA: At the start of this semester, 5 mess workers from each hall have been moved to the MMM hall of residence. Won’t this lead to a shortage of staff in the other halls?

HNM: I do not believe that there is any kind of shortage. When we introduced private security in hostels, the HMC security personnel were drafted in as mess workers, which led to an excess of labour. Transfer of mess workers from the halls to MMM is essentially a removal of the excess, which will not lead to mess operations being compromised. Moreover, we are also planning to mechanize the labour intensive jobs such as potato peeling, dough kneading and vegetable slicing (VS Hall already has one set of these machines).

SA: Speaking of mechanization, very recently, one of these machines injured a mess worker in RK Hall. Isn’t mechanization a potential risk for the staff?

HNM: Well, the particular dough kneading machine in question was not designed to cater to a large hostel of 400 students. This led to certain operational improvisations on behalf of the mess workers which is what caused the injury. The machine was, in fact, not purchased by the institute but came in through a distinguished alumnus. In the future, when we introduce such machines on a large scale, it would be ensured that they do not cause any safety concerns.

SA: RK Hall has been receiving generous amounts of money from the alumni for its upgradation. Don’t you think that the resulting gap between RK and the other hostels in terms of standard of living is an issue of concern?

HNM: The institute, on its part, does not treat any hall in a preferential manner. However, if an alumnus decides to make a contribution to a particular hall, he or she is most welcome to do so, and we genuinely hope that the other alumni follow suit for their respective halls. I think that all the halls have their share of financially affluent alumni and potential contributors. To draw an analogy, alumni sometimes give projects to the departments from which they graduated, and this may not always lead to a fair distribution.

SA: Of late, numerous cases of mobile phone and cash thefts in the hostels have been reported. Recently, a laptop was stolen from one of the rooms and the security guard didn’t even have as much as the phone number of the police station or the Institute security office. Do you believe private security are living up to their expectations?

HNM: My personal view is that private security, which was very effective in the initial days of implementation, has started slacking off. I guess even they have got accustomed to the IIT culture (laughs). Jokes apart, I have talked about this to the authorities (the Registrar and the ASO), and have proposed the installation of check-posts at the gates of all hostels (rather than inside the hall) equipped with a telephone and a check-in register. This should make security more effective. The institute is supportive of the view, and we await a speedy implementation.

In a related development, Scholars’ Avenue contacted the Director for his views on the matter. In the Director’s view, the institute is not obliged to provide every student accommodation. He cited the example of IITD where around 30% of the students live outside the campus. The Director also suggested a couple of things the institute could try out: firstly, the institute could buy buildings in GolB, PremB or Midnapore and keep students there or, secondly, leave it to students to find their own accommodation. In his words, “When you came to IIT Kgp for admission, if you were given the option of either getting admitted here and living outside the campus or not taking admission here at all, what would you have chosen?”

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