A Perspicuous Conversation
This week, Team MM caught up with Prof. Animesh Biswas to talk about issues persistent on campus and clear a few misconceptions amongst students in NITR. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
MM: The internet is blocked in hostels from 8 am to 5:15 pm. The main motive behind it was to ensure that the students utilise this time to go to classes and study, and also NIT can save data and thus cut down the internet costs. However, a certain group of students feels that the institute should at least allow access to specific e-learning sites or MOOC websites, for instance, coursera.com, edx.org or MIT Open Courseware for that matter so that people can utilise these resources during their leisure period. What are your views on it?
AB: Definitely. If these courses are helping out the students, then access should be given to a selected number of websites during college hours. The Head of Computer Centre can be approached for the same and once a proposal is submitted to him we can have a discussion about this. Also if the students have certain software for implementation or anything in mind that can help out everyone on campus, they can submit it to the Head of the Computer Centre, Prof. A.K. Turuk.
MM: It's been around five months since the demonetisation scheme has been implemented. However, the ATMs are still either out of cash or they dispense only 2000 rupee notes in the hostel areas. Also, it was requested earlier to make sure NITR should try to encourage a cashless mode of transactions at all outlets within the campus. Can anything be done in this regard?
AB: Right now, we aren’t focusing on the cashless transformation of our Institute. We have to proceed step-wise. I would first focus on the academic curriculum reforms and create a proper environment for the teaching- learning process. These issues can be discussed and resolved at a later stage.
MM: Is there any other authority that can be approached?
AB: The Manager, SBI can be approached by student body directly and the outcome of the discussion may be informed to us later.
MM: In your previous interaction with MM you had told that MHRD funds for the ongoing infrastructural development are slowly increasing. Can we expect the developments on campus to speed up?
AB: Increasing is an ambiguous word. Slowly increasing really doesn’t have significance if it isn’t steep in nature. I immediately want these construction works to wrap up as it amounts over INR 100-150 Crores. On the top of that, we are being penalised by the Shapoorji Pallonji Group due to the delays and the strolling of equipment, and the fines we need to pay a sum up to a significant amount. The institute is trying its best to ensure that the amount is paid and the work is completed well within the revised stipulated time.
MM: Why did the HMC decide to remove girls from their hostels after the 4th late entry? Where will they be shifted? How will hostel seat rent, mess fees, etc be reimbursed?
AB: I was unaware of it and will raise the issue in the next HMC meeting.
Rules should be prevalent in order to create some fear factor among students which is actually necessary in order to have a check and control over them. There should be a provision existent but we are there to supervise how stringent should the implementation be.
After all, we are proud of our students. Why should we go for such a harsh decision against them? If a rule has to be prevalent, it should be there with proper consideration of all dimensions to it. A situation of throwing the girl boarders out of the institute after four late entries should never arise as students are equally responsible for their well-being.
MM: Will the SAC restructuring committee’s conclusions be binding on the upcoming elections?
AB: The process of restructuring SAC has to be approved by the Board of Governors (BoGs). The BoG will be sitting on April 24th. Considering we can’t wait that long due to the election process being conducted in April before the end semester exams begin, a solution would be to have the elections in July, just after college reopens. But again, summer is essential for the newly elected representatives to think about and work on the next academic year’s SAC activities, so that leaves us with no option but to hold the elections in April. The elections are done on NITRIS and it takes only a few minutes. One thing we can do is that we can ask the candidates to file in their nominations in the beginning of April and hold the elections preferably after April 24, 2017. Students can discuss amongst themselves and can come up with a better plan if any.
MM: The money that was remaining due to the cancellation of ISM could be used for repairing the Lawn Tennis Court, water sprinklers in STSC and water dispensers in DTS or other repair works around the campus.
AB: Yes, I definitely agree. ISM was allocated 13 Lakhs this year. The Lawn Tennis court is in a very bad condition. I wish that after repairs, it lives up to international standards.
I would be more than happy to divert the money for repairs of the court and other places where money is needed provided it is recommended by SAC body.
Estate Office and SAC can be asked to have a meeting together and decide on construction works on campus that urgently require money and start working on them.
MM: What is the exact status of the outreach center in Bhubaneswar?
AB: There was a tender floated for fencing the land allotted to our institute, but due to some reasons, it had to be cancelled. But I’m trying my best to at least fence the land to prevent encroachments. The process has already started happening.
MM: A better seating arrangement and an extension in timings of the central library were being planned. How far has that gone?
AB: I personally want to extend the timings during examination time. But the major problem we are facing is that we are highly understaffed. I am in talks with the HOD of Central Library, Mr. Gunjal and will try to do whatever possible in the best interests of students.
MM: Why can’t we have a token system wherein students can take their personal books inside the library?
AB: The main problem which students face is the shortage of space in the general reading room during the time of examinations and they aren’t allowed to take personal books to the library. I need to discuss this issue with the HOD of Central Library.
MM: You had also proposed for a 24*7 dispensary in the institute. How far is that feasible?
AB: In the current scenario, there are three doctors in the institute health center, all of them being over-burdened. Recently, the Board has approved an additional doctor to the institute following which we will be starting the process of selection. Once that is done, we can hope for an extension in dispensary timings.
MM: If we had MoUs with Indian and foreign universities which could help promote student exchange programs, it would be beneficial. Can that be done?
I do not want to sign MoU with universities in abroad that are lower ranked than our institute. Our aim is to increase our research environment and outlook of students. I have started seeking help from alumni in this regard to enable signing of MoU with reputed universities.