Dawn of a New Age
In the pilot Director’s Desk of 2016, MM talks at length with the director regarding various changes happening and yet to happen at NIT-R and the implications posed by the same. With the retirement of Prof S.K. Sarangi around the corner, we caught up with him seeking to know the official procedure for the appointment of a Director at NIT.
MM: What is the procedure followed by MHRD to appoint the director?
SKS: They put an advertisement for the post in a newspaper. As per NIT act, it is a general selection procedure. The advertisement has already been posted for NIT-R along with 7 or 8 institutes. People apply accordingly. The first round of shortlisting commences to filter out the candidates satisfying necessary conditions for the job. A committee is formed by Ministry of HRD and headed by people of high importance to them. Further shortlisting takes place to ensure that the candidates are fit for the post. Academic records are checked. It includes the number of research papers published, the amount of sponsored projects done, positions of responsibility bestowed upon the applicant (Dean, Head of Department etc.). There are necessary as well as sufficient conditions, and the final shortlisting is done after taking all these variables into account. It is after this, few selected applicants are called for a discussion round with the committee and the recruiting is done.
MM: So it is like any other job?
SKS: Yes, it is. But there are subtle differences in the pipeline. At every juncture, approvals are required by people in higher levels of the government. The process itself is a search and selection process, wherein the committee proactively writes to many people for suggesting some candidates of their choice who are deemed worthy for the post.
MM: What is the criteria for application?
SKS: To be a director, you have to be a professor for at least 10 years and must have five years before 70. Normally the applicants are younger.
MM: What is the usual tenure of an NIT director?
SKS: The tenure is for 5 years or until someone reaches the age of 70, whichever comes first.
MM: How is the interim director appointed?
SKS: They have started early this year. So the recruitment is expected to reach its completion before June 30th. Usually it takes 6-7 months for completion of the whole process. The director’s tenure gets over on June 30th, regardless of an anomalous case wherein his tenure gets over before this date. If they do not appoint the director before June 30th, the senior most professor takes over as interim director until the new one steps in. Currently, Prof. S.K. Rath is the senior most professor and is likely to take over as the interim director.
MM: What level of authority does the interim director possess?
SKS: There is no distinction between interim director and a regular director during the tenure in which he overlooks the institute’s affairs.
MM: There is a hype going on regarding the inception of a student body. What are your views on that and how should it be framed?
SKS: I do not claim to have a complete idea of what the student body will be doing. Many aspects of the students’ lives are handled by SAC and HECs, which are student bodies of their own accord, but are not the official student bodies per se. Still, there are other ways in which students can assist the institute in its administration and management. There have been inputs for such a body. It will be nomination based body consisting of limited members. Hence they can work with agility and efficiency to help the institute. The extent to which they can help is not clear, but we will get a clear picture soon enough.
MM: What is your perception of it?
SKS: The name that I have coined for it is Student Body for Assisting in Institute Management (SBFAIM). I’ll tell you what it is not. It is not a student’s union. The history of RECs and IITs is testimonial to the fact that there never was a student body in these institutes. Engineers have always been a serious lot focused in their careers. They never indulged in the politics involved in a student’s union. The concept of a student body has lost its sheen in recent times and they are limited to a body of eloquent speakers who organize some events of importance to the institute. And it is my belief that SAC is functioning properly and another body would be redundant. Regardless, there are certain ways in which they can assist us. I feel that they will act as a bridge between students and authorities. They can provide us the perspective of students in sensitive issues and it would provide us more depth in that situation. They will report directly to me regarding various issues and action will be taken accordingly.
MM: Is it really required?
SKS: No. It is a concept that needs to be explored further and we are still in the process of gaining a better understanding as to what purpose will it serve in the long run. It definitely has some advantages and we will make effort to tap into that.
MM: In your last interview, you talked about the Institute booklet. Please elaborate on that.
SKS: Instead of an institute booklet, I have planned to create a generalised draft which will cover multiple aspects. It will establish a status quo for our institute and explain our agenda. People discover us for B. Tech employment, we do not have to discover them. This is because NIT is already known as a brand; there are 31 institutes where recruiters are able to find students of a certain calibre. We need to push however, for courses like M. Tech, Dual Degree, Integrated M. Sc. as well as the 2 year MSc. We need to explain to them that there is a specially configured graduate for a certain type of job. It’s a form of marketing. There are also things like the TIIR that is new and needs to be pushed. Not a lot of people will know about this and how it works; it is for us to educate them. Also, there is scope for giving large sponsorship to our corpus fund. It can be used for sponsorship for SAC. So, there are many things to write to companies.
MM: According to a poll in Monday Morning, the bus service has been deemed as unsatisfactory by most students. What are your remarks? Can this service be expanded?
SKS: The bus service had been introduced experimentally to find out whether such a service is useful or not. You need to come out with information such as this and suggestions so that we can improve the service. We don’t have any payments for the bus service. Our institute’s general policy is to not keep track of small expenses because we would have to spend more money accounting for the expenditure. So we take up all student expenses as one during fee. Yes, this facility should be improved and it will be. The government actually has a ban on procurement of transport and if any institute wishes to do the same, they need to get it cleared by the Finance Minister which is cumbersome. We actually purchased the current bus from the hostel account. So it is possible and more practical to lease a bus. We can make a deal with a company that runs a bus for some purpose during the day so that we can have the evenings. For that, we will be putting up an advertisement.
MM: Mr. Karan Grover had talked about making NITR the first green campus of the country. How far can it be made possible?
SKS: We always have appreciated Mr. Grover’s suggestions and are thankful for his volunteering to give a blueprint of how to plan a green campus. But we have some constraints. There is a quality-cost comparison and its optimisation is our top priority. Steps like plantation of trees, installation of solar rooftops are on our radar, as such. We have a systematic way of planting trees and it has borne fruits. We planted a batch 5 years ago they have sprouted. There is a lawn being made in front of the electrical department. We are taking efforts to implement smart construction of buildings. These buildings will have plenty of ventilation and natural lighting. This will greatly aid in conserving electricity and make our campus greener than before.
MM: According to a poll in Monday Morning, most students are dissatisfied with the level of junior-senior interaction in NITR. What are your thoughts?
SKS: Back when I was a student in Kharagpur, there were no phones or easy transportation and the course was for 5 years. As a teenager with no other means of contact with your parents other than a postcard, learning to live with your college-mates becomes an absolute necessity. That necessity is missing in today’s generation. As per High Court’s decision, as a consequence of ragging, we have to isolate the first years. But I am against it; if we can somehow integrate the first years with the seniors from the beginning when the maximum interaction occurs, it would be good. What I observed here, this has a tradition of different halls for different years which ensures you have no place to actually meet other students (from different years). So, we tried to make a conscious effort of creating camaraderie between students from all batches. People were strongly bonded to fellow batch mates. Leaving freshmen apart, we try to place students of other batches in the same hostels to improve interactions.
Hall activities were incepted to improve interaction among fellow boarders. But, our observations suggest that these activities have not fulfilled their objectives to our satisfaction.
Earlier, SAC was operated solely by pre-final year students. But we included students of different batches to improve interaction levels among the same. We have made changes earlier and we are planning few more changes to improve the interaction levels between the existing batches.
MM: Do you feel that the decline in senior-junior interaction is the cause for dwindling alumni relations?
SKS: This might be one of the reasons. There are other factors as well. The migration culture of boarders is one of them and several other factors come into play. The blame lies partly in the fact that the alumni network has a history of taking back from the institute. There are patrons who have greatly aided NIT-R. But the stress on functioning as a union to spread their propaganda is something that does not bode well with our system. Nevertheless, the official policies of these bodies are undergoing a change to introduce a system of contribution. This would allow the alumni to change their frame of mind and adopt a healthier relationship with their alma mater. Changes are in the air and I sincerely hope that the coming days will prove to be fruitful.