Importunating Our Tomorrows
As the NIT-R junta wakes up fresh after an exhausting mid-semesters, they are in turmoil with the multiple changes to be brought about in the curriculum, attendance, SAC and fests. Team MM sat down with the Director, Prof. Animesh Biswas to remove the doubts riddling us all. Excerpts of the interview are presented.
MM: What will be the effect/benefits of the academic curriculum revision to the pre-final and final years since the primary focus is on freshers and sophomores?
AB: Introducing changes and implementing them is a slow process. So far, the first phase of academic revision is over, and for the subsequent phases, I will have to invite a team of experts to discuss that prospective. Currently, we are focussing on the curriculum changes for the next batch of freshmen. Because of which, we have no other choice but to run two parallel curriculums - one for the new batch and the other the existing curriculum for the current students. Albeit, the Senate will take the final call regarding these matters, I am hopeful that we will be able to see a clearer difference once the entire student body has had to go through a similar curriculum.
MM: In your first interview, you mentioned the need of proper counselling service for students. What is the progress for the same?
AB: For a student studying in a technical college, stress is imminent, and we learnt this the hard way in IIT Kanpur and also witnessed changes after counselling started. I have invited the Ex-Head of Counselling Services of IIT Kanpur to our institute on the 16th of this month. He will be giving lectures and help out our faculty with hands-on training on how to involve students in this institute run process as students are an integral part of it. With a little modification, we will adopt the similar structure.
MM: What are your views and plans about improving the placement Scenario which is lagging behind as compared to other IITs and NITs?
AB: With the institute-alumni and alumni-student relations having grown and in the process of getting better, I am hopeful of more support from them. For every contact we have initiated, we have received a positive response. I would also request the Training and Placement centre to pool in their support in contacting the alumni and other interested companies. Additionally, one of the priorities now is to improve the Wi-Fi services in the TIIR building. We are aiming to bridge the communication gap that exists between students and the recruiters and to make their stay comfortable as well.
MM: Keeping in mind the placement scenario, what is the status of NIT-Rourkela’s outreach centre in Bhubaneswar?
AB: The work order has been given out the contractor, and we have decided upon some tentative designs too. However, due to lack of supply of funds from MHRD, work progress is slow. As of now, the boundary wall is being made, and the process will resume once the fund gets released.
MM: Our institute allows for a maximum of 2 months long internship whereas some companies require interns for six months which is not permissible according to our institute policy. Can we expect changes in this regard in the academic revision from next semester?
AB: In the new curriculum, there will be flexibility in this regard. The workings of this optional system haven’t been decided as of now. But, broadly speaking, students, who wish to take a break after their 3rd year for a duration of more than two months, will be allowed to do so. Nevertheless, they will be required to study the courses missed in an additional semester.
MM: Many institutes have foreign student exchange programs wherein deserving candidates spend a semester in a foreign university. For us, it is present only for the dual degree students in their final years and the B.Tech. Students who are eyeing for a research career are deprived of this. So, since the course load will get reduced in the subsequent years, can there be made policies whereby allowing students to exchange semesters with foreign universities?
AB: We do have provisions of mapping the course work done in foreign universities to the prescribed course of our institute. With the changes in the academic programmes, we are looking into developing a model like the Erasmus Programme in which once the mapping is done; students do not have a semester worth of backlogged papers.
MM: The primary and persistent concern the PG students have is the delay while receiving the stipend. And as per status quo, there is not a fixed date or timeframe within which they receive their stipend. By when can we expect this issue to be resolved?
AB: The fund release from the ministry is erratic. Because of this erratic nature, we block the funds in the bank and release it periodically. This coupled with the bank formalities, delays the process altogether.
MM: There were plans of installing new biometric scanners in all the laboratories which will be exclusive to those laboratories only, reducing problems like standing in queues and leaving the experiment halfway through just for the biometric attendance giving process. What is the status of that?
AB: This issue is being overseen by the Dean (Academics), Prof. B. Majhi and I am yet to discuss the exact status of the progress.
MM: The scanning electron microscope in the ceramic department has been dysfunctional for a long time due to which the one in the metallurgy department, at times, gets overloaded. Can we expect anything to be done in this regard? Also, the researchers in the department of chemistry have expressed the dire need for a Single Crystal X-Ray Diffraction. What can be done in this regard?
AB: Currently, all high-end equipment is in the custody of individual departments and laboratories. Once, the equipment breaks down we do not receive the updates on time. I am trying to centralise all these equipment and ensure that students can use the same through a central portal. A “Central Facilities” committee has been formed which will oversee the care and maintenance. Furthermore, we are in the process of allocating money for the necessary repairs.
The committee will also ensure that all the necessary equipment should be procured.
SAC and extracurricular activities:
MM: There have been discussions on upgradations of SAC website. What are the plans for the same? Similarly, there was a proposal of Official Institute Handbook which would feature photographs of the SAC and would aid students in their quests for sponsorships. The work was supposed to be done by October. Why is there a delay?
AB: The Dean Academics is in-charge of the Automation Cell and is supervising the upgradations of the SAC website.
As the handbook comes under the Student Activity Centre (SAC) and the SAC body is restructuring, we can complete the work on directory after a final body is decided and approved by the Board of Governors (BOGs)
MM: Last year the football team could not participate in the Inter-NIT meet at Agartala because of a SAC policy that doesn't fund the use of air transport. And even though, the date of booking was far from the date of travel, and expenses would have been less, they were not allowed. A similar situation was faced by the chess team. What is your view on this?
AB: There are some areas to which there is no other mode of transport than via airlines. So, we will look into this matter and try to provide the shortest and cheapest mode of airlines facility to students going to places where the only mode of communication through the air.
MM: Why isn't the health centre open on Sundays because students usually get time to visit the health centre for a check-up on the weekend?
AB: That is a great matter of concern, and we are taking this agenda to the board of governors to recruit one more on-call doctor along with nurses and dressers, who will be available round the clock to attend to any emergency in the Institute. The fact that the health centre remains closed in the night makes me restless, and we are trying our best to recruit more staff so that it can be open round the clock.
MM: The campus has some form or other of construction going on, but various departments like BM and BT, Civil Department, Basic Sciences Departments, and Electrical Sciences department lack basic facilities like bolts in washrooms and functional water coolers and aqua-guards. Why is this so?
AB: The washrooms in the main building are under construction, and they are being done phase-wise. So far the construction on the ground floor is complete, and we are slowly finishing the remaining ones. About the newly constructed buildings like electrical sciences building, there may be some dysfunctional elements present, but we haven’t received any complaints about it so we cannot take action yet. So, I would suggest the students give the requirements/complaints to the respective HODs of various departments and action will be taken for the same.
MM: For the upcoming summer months, what all provisions have been taken to minimise power cuts?
AB: As of now, we haven't taken any specific steps other than the provision of the 33kV power line that already exists. I'll talk to the power and water supply board and come up with steps.
MM: Why NITR is not providing Wi-Fi routers for internet access everywhere inside the campus? Why is the internet access restricted in the day hours during exams because during exams, usually the only credible source of clearing any concept about a subject is from the internet?
AB: Installing Wi-Fi routers in the whole campus will be a very expensive venture, and because of the financial crunch, it is not possible. We are focusing on making TIIR a building with full network accessibility and at the same time, improving the present Internet conditions in the library. Prof. Sarat Patra, who is working to achieve this cause, has told me that INR 10 lakh is allocated for this and we are looking to use that amount in the most efficient way possible.
Coming to the internet restrictions during exams, I will inquire Prof. A. K. Turuk about the same.
MM: Why the institute does not provide railway concession forms for travelling from hometown to college and from college to hometown? It is given in all IITs and NITs, then why not here?
AB: I was totally unaware of this, and I am largely in the opinion that railway concession forms should be given to the students. The fact that it has not been allowed is very unnatural, and I will talk to the Dean (Student welfare) about this.
MM: Why do we need to take an appointment to meet you? There was no such rule previously. Students, to some extent, feel that you're unapproachable now because of that now.
AB: Anybody and everybody can approach me. I consider this office to be meant for everybody. I streamlined the process so that I can dedicate private time to anybody who needs me. In all other offices, such kind of decorum is maintained.
MM: The lift in the main building has been dysfunctional for a long time, and no concrete steps have been taken to fix that issue. When can we expect them to be fixed and what is the progress on construction of ramps for the physically challenged?
AB: That is at the top of my priority list now because any student who is physically challenged can never come and meet the director even if he or she wants to. Also, funds have been allotted, and feasibility studies are being carried out to build ramps and revamp the lifts throughout the campus to facilitate the physically disabled students. I will look into this matter on high priority now.