Persisting Predicaments: Vikram Sarabhai Hall Review
Vikram Sarabhai hall of residence is one of the largest halls in NIT Rourkela. Commonly referred to as Hall-8, it has 8 blocks spread across a vast area with 1024 rooms and approximately 1400 boarders. A maze for its boarders, it has vanquished quite a few problems since last year. Unfortunately for the boarders, new ones keep popping up. Let us scrutinise various aspects of the mega hall.
Each room has three plug points and a single LAN port, irrespective of the number of occupancies in the same. The one factor by which the rooms in VS Hall have an edge over other halls is that each room’s window has been fitted with a mesh to keep insects away. Comfortable for a single person, the rooms are inadequate in size to board two students.
Issues regarding boarding don’t end here. Towards the end of April, a notice had been put up asking the boarders to vacate their rooms immediately after the end semester examination to get the rooms whitewashed. Much to their disappointment, no rooms were whitewashed. Also, the boarders faced difficulty while vacating their rooms, as the notice was provided just three days before the commencement of summer break. When asked about it to the warden Prof. Jugal Mohapatra, he said that white washing is not necessary for every single room and only a few rooms require it. Summer interns were allotted VS hall and to accommodate them, rooms of B.Tech 2 years and 3 years were needed to be vacated. Maintenance was also taken care of during summer. There have been no cases where a fan or a light have not been functioning.
White washing is not needed for every room; only some require it. Around 200 – 250 interns were to be accommodated in VS hall. If the rooms are not vacated, where will they go? Rooms of B.tech 2nd year and B.Tech 3rd year students were allotted to them and were needed to be vacated. Also maintenance work had been carried out in rooms. No issues of fan falling or light not working have been reported. If the rooms are not open they cannot be maintained.
In spite of the commendable work carried out, a meagre time bracket was provided for the students and hence, Monday Morning has requested the warden to issue notices well in advance to which he duly agreed.
Since it was my first time too, henceforth I will give the notice a month before. Although, a 3 day gap was enough in my opinion, regardless, the notice will be put up 15 days to 1 month in advance.
If white washing is required, applications must be given according to the protocol. As per the protocol, if any boarder wishes to get his room white washed, he can contact the warden via a webmail and whitewashing can be done. Currently, the walls outside VS Hall are being whitewashed, so the warden has suggested that talking to the caretaker about getting their rooms whitewashed will suffice too.
As many of the rooms are being occupied on a twin sharing basis, boarders have shared their plight on the availability of a single LAN port. When questioned to the warden he replied by saying:
When the room was planned it was supposed to be a single seated not a double seated. Once Satish Dhawan Hall will accommodate to its full strength, Vikram Sarabhai hall may become single seated, hopefully by the next year.
When the General Secretary was questioned about the funds being diverted into decorating the hall instead of buying furniture for the rooms or other civil works, he said that the task of buying furniture is of the Central Purchase Committee, which has been approached repeatedly with the needs of VS Hall, but they’ve never provided the required furniture, hence it wasn’t in the Warden’s hands. Even though VS Hall has funds, they can not buy furniture for their boarders as per the rules. The Warden and the HEC have put forth a request for tables and chairs in rooms which lack them, and hope that everyone has one table, one chair and one cot to themselves as quickly as possible.
V.S Hall was one of the first halls to put up curtains. Despite the fact mentioned above, some blocks had not been covered as the instalment was done block wise; E, F, G, H, A, B, C and D. The last few blocks have not been entirely covered due to students non-availability. Web-mails were sent by the warden in this regard, and any requirement further should be brought to the notice of the warden. When the general secretary was asked about this, he told Monday Morning:
The boarders who still don’t have curtains have been approached by the warden via webmail. However, curtains couldn’t be put up because of the boarders not being available or the rooms being locked. They will be put up by this weekend or the next weekend.”
Maintenance and Pest Issues:
The hall has a cleaning staff that is paid to clean the rooms on a weekly basis, and maintain the corridors and bathrooms as well. Despite this, it has been noticed that there is a persistent rat menace in the hall. Speaking on this issue, the warden has requested students to clean their rooms properly, at least twice a month. They can get the room cleaned by the staff, but once a week only.
Due to prevailing cracks in the building, rodents have made them their home, and when brought to the notice of the warden, he said
It’s a huge building. According to the basic civil engineering I know, such cracks are common due to expansions and quakes. As of now, 50-60 rat traps have been provided from the Chief Warden’s Office in areas with extreme rodent issues.
Recently it has been observed that the blue hanging dustbins have been missing leading to garbage littering near the rooms. The issue was taken up to the warden who stated that the dustbins have been missing due to incompliance behaviour by the students who have either burnt it or unhinged it. Agreeing to the fact that the dustbins available currently are inadequate, the warden requests the students to report such issues, as immense care is being taken to avoid litter, by the hall maintenance authority.
New notice boards had been put up on every floor which was deemed unnecessary by the students. The warden stated that
When I entered the hall as a warden I saw that notices were pasted on the walls and that needed to be curbed. Extra funds received by the hall from the chief warden seems to be a bane for students. If the students have given some amount and they are receiving twice of it, what’s wrong in it? As a warden I will responsibly take it for my boarders.
Water Supply and Power Supply:
Few coolers in the hall have not been functioning well recently. The main reason for this is that there is no AMC for water coolers. A proper maintenance team does not exist right now, and hence it is taking quite a while to resolve the issue.
There is no proper AMC for water coolers right now. We are trying set up a team. After a discussion in my HEC meeting I will be able to provide further information on when we can expect the team to be ready.
The geysers are also not functioning properly in most of the blocks. The warden has stated that the same problem exists with geysers too as there is no proper electrical maintenance staff for geysers. A central water heating system has been proposed to curb this issue which will take some time to come up. Inverters have been installed in the study room and are being installed in the gym to create hassle-free conditions for its boarders.
Mess and Dining Facilities:
The Hall has recently been provided with a new night canteen which was stalled for few months, to cater to the midnight cravings of its boarders. A day canteen is also available in the D-Block cycle stand. The night canteen does not have a fixed rate chart and needs to be put up immediately. The warden needs any requirements of the students in writing and nothing can be done if requests are made verbally. The General Secretary Swadhin Nayak said that a proposal is being made for a new night canteen with a budget estimate and will be passed by the end of this year and will be constructed by the next year. The major problem arises with the non-availability of the space, but the issue is being taken care of.
The mess facilities however face a few issues, such as the fact that the caterer hasn’t been changed from the last three years. The warden said that the change of caterer for any hostel wasn’t in the hands of the warden of the hall, but the chief warden. The General Secretary stated that:
The authority to change the caterer rests with the director and nothing can be done as of now. Rourkela does not offer any great caterers for the current price of Rs.93 per day. There were issues that were reported to the then Chief Warden prof. S. K. Patel and formal letters were submitted by the warden stating to cancel the license immediately if the quality is not reinstated. Also taste plays a key role in the success of a mess and a monotonous one doesn’t help in that regard. Hence we are changing the menu once in 45 days, at least twice a semester.
There had also been an issue where mess dues were asked to be paid by the students staying in summer in spite of being told to implement the pay per meal method. The warden said that:
There were nearly 39 students who had given the consent with the sign of their faculty advisor saying that they will not avail the mess facilities for the summer vacation but stay in the hall for the whole summer. So I put up a notice because if they pay per day they will have to pay a bit more than the monthly mess dues. The notice was given prior regarding the 39 students that a separate mess bill must be prepared for them. But there was a little chaos as 8-10 students started paying that one. They paid for the month of May and for those students only the mess dues will be updated. There were still 2-3 cases saying that they have paid so we sorted it out and updated their mess dues.
With rumours floating about the pending mess dues with the mess staff, the warden cleared them by saying that they usually do not pay the caterer the complete amount following the benefit of the Institute.
There is a process which has its benefits. We take 3-4 months to completely clear it.
He said that if all the money is paid at once, there are chances that the worker can abruptly leave to another place without any prior information. The money is paid 3-4 times in a month at certain intervals. After paying in such instalments, around 10% of the total money is kept as security. In such a manner all the dues are cleared in 3-4 months with 10% of the total dues in the institute’s hand.
All the dues have been paid in this manner, and no discrepancies have occurred.
Up to my knowledge, all the dues have been paid by the month of April with a certain amount of around 10% with us.
Recreation and Other Facilities:
VS Hall undoubtedly has the best recreation facilities, for its music room has equipment better than SAC’s music room, and its recently inaugurated gym has everything a fitness buff could ask for. The hall plans on procuring a music system and speakers for the gym and giving it backup inverters in the case of power failure. The new gym was constructed in the previous recreation room that had the TT tables and Carom boards. The music room is open to all, and the instruments should be used in the hall itself.
The reading room, which was used as the store room during the summer break has been refurbished, as most of its furniture either broke or was stolen during the summer holidays.
The new gym is now operational in two slots and is running well with many boarders using it. Initially open to only its boarders, the gym is now open to everyone in specified slots. Boarders not pertaining to VS hall of residence have to submit an application to the warden along with his ID card to access the gym.
A resplendent lawn now prevails in the hall front with a plethora of flora. The garden is picturesque with the water bodies present at the back of the hall. The garden at the back is not yet done. The warden stated that although it is a huge hall the budget is always stringent and other priorities exist before beautification. The gardens will have a sprinkler system from next year with a pipeline from the nearby Naga pond to save water for summer usage from the current sources.
The sports facilities are improving with frequent additions like badminton courts and basketball courts catering to the needs of fitness and sports enthusiasts. The badminton court faces a few difficulties like a non-uniform surface which will be dealt if there is a demand for it.
Recently, the chief warden expressed his unhappiness over the paintings that were done at the entrance. The entrance hall was painted reflecting various cultures and traditions which is aesthetically appealing but boarders expressed their dissatisfaction as there were other needs that needed to be catered to. The warden stated that:
Don’t you decorate your own home? Well this is a hall so we can’t decorate? It’s not about the work it’s about the mentality. Do you break your bathroom doors at home? It’s a hall we can do anything. It all rests in the mentality. Any person who has entered the hall has been in awe of it, be it students, teachers or parents. During convocation when the Alumni entered the hall, they said Oh Wow! Great! Why wasn’t this there during our time? Maintenance and Developments are two parallel tracks. As a warden I am doing my job that’s why people are commenting, had I not done my job they wouldn’t comment.
The cycle stands are constructed in the C and D blocks which is a difficulty for farther blocks. A proposal was made to construct a cycle stand outside but was rejected as it hampers the beauty of the hall and it is on the road. Another proposal was made to construct the cycle stand near the existing lawn area which was not developed during the time of the proposal. The lawn had to be sacrificed for it hence it was scrapped too. The general secretary state that nothing concrete can be done as of now due to no availability of space and boarders will have to put it in an extra effort.
The Warden’s Vision:
When a student enters the campus they should say I want V.S Hall. V.S Hall should be everyone’s priority and it is happening with PG Students. Hopefully, UG students’ priority also changes to VS Hall.
Overall, battling so many issues, VS Hall has been rectifying its issues very efficiently and every problem is still being taken care of to provide the best of facilities to the students. Housing over a thousand boarders, it is a herculean task to get all the wheels moving. VS Hall is striving to get on par with the other hostels in providing the best facilities to its Boarders which is highly commendable.